The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Afghanistan chaos now a deadly crisis as US troops perish
Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Friday! TGIF! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 628,503; Tuesday, 629,411; Wednesday, 630,816; Thursday, 632,272; Friday, 633,566.
President Biden’s vow that the United States will retaliate against terrorists in response to the deaths of 13 service members and injuries to at least 18 others in Thursday’s grisly explosions in Kabul prompted some analysts to ponder whether one 20-year war is ending as another begins.
The president said in remarks in the East Room that the risks in Afghanistan, pegged as the work of the terror group Islamic State in Khorasan, or ISIS-K, are not over. Taliban leaders condemned the attacks. Dozens of Afghans also were killed.
“We will not forgive, we will not forget,” Biden said following the first U.S. fatalities in the Afghanistan war since February 2020. “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
“These ISIS fighters will not win,” he declared.
The president said airlifts of Americans and Afghans from Kabul would continue with U.S. military help until next week’s withdrawal deadline, despite Pentagon expectations of continued attacks. If Americans and others need rescuing beyond Tuesday, the U.S. government will “find them and we will get them out,” Biden said.
The Hill: President says deadly attack won’t alter evacuation mission.
The Associated Press: Evacuations on Friday resumed following the Kabul bombings. While officials on Thursday said more than 100,000 people have been safely evacuated from Kabul, as many as 1,000 Americans and tens of thousands more Afghans are struggling to leave in one of history’s largest airlifts.
The New York Times: Estimates indicate up to 250,000 Afghans who worked for allies have not been evacuated.
The Hill: Fear rises for Afghans left behind when evacuations end.
A somber and briefly misty-eyed Biden, who hailed as “heroes” the American troops killed and wounded, made clear he would not deploy additional forces to Afghanistan to bolster the 5,800 now on the verge of departing.
At least two blasts on Thursday ripped through crowds of people trying to evacuate, killing more than 100 people and wounding many others. The explosions hit a jammed airport gate manned by U.S. Marines and the nearby Baron Hotel.
Biden and Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command (pictured below), blamed ISIS-K, known as Taliban adversaries, as likely behind the bombings. The president and Pentagon officials had warned for days about the terror group and issued alerts to Americans on Wednesday not to come to the Kabul airport.
“If we can find who is responsible for this, we will go after them,” McKenzie told reporters during a Thursday briefing, “24/7, we are looking for them.”
The general said evacuations of Americans and Afghans will continue, despite what he called the “extremely active threat stream against the airfield.” The throngs trying to get on planes and the security searches necessary mean that U.S. forces must be near all who enter the gates, putting them at risk. “We thought this would happen sooner or later,” McKenzie said.
Reactions were swift from U.S. lawmakers and from international capitals. “I remain concerned that terrorists worldwide will be emboldened by our retreat, by this attack, and by the establishment of a radical Islamic terror state in Afghanistan,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reacted through her office, saying she “strongly condemns the heinous terrorist attack” and mourns “the loss of every innocent life taken.”
The Hill: Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Josh Hawley (Mo.) joined other conservative lawmakers in urging Biden to resign because of the Kabul bombings.
The Washington Post: World leaders and the Taliban condemn the attacks in Kabul.
Even before the blasts, world leaders decided they could no longer assist the evacuations. Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Turkey and the Netherlands all said that they would no longer be able to facilitate airlifts from Hamid Karzai International Airport, which has both civilian and military sections (The New York Times).
USA Today: What is ISIS-K? It is an offshoot of the Islamic State terrorist organization that established a sprawling caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The group was all but destroyed by a U.S.-led campaign but affiliates have since emerged and drawn recruits from other local and regional militant groups. The CIA in its directory of terror groups describes ISIS-K as known for a combination of guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics against Afghan, U.S. and coalition military forces.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Horror in Kabul is a political disaster for Biden.
U.S. officials, who repeatedly say they are in close coordination with the Taliban, provided leaders of the Islamist fighters with names of Americans and Afghans to be evacuated out of Kabul, Politico reported. The list was designed to expedite their departures at a time when the Taliban control and protect checkpoints, roads and the outer perimeter surrounding the Kabul airport. It angered some U.S. officials and lawmakers. “Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” said one defense official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic. “It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean.”
Biden confirmed Thursday that the United States told the Taliban in recent days about busloads and groups of people making their way through Kabul. The information was shared to try to streamline and safeguard perilous journeys to the airport. He said he did not know if individuals were identified by name to the Taliban, adding “it could very well have happened.”
The Hill: Flags lowered to half-staff to honor slain U.S. troops.
Internet regulations are as outdated as dial-up
Facebook supports updated regulations, including four areas where lawmakers can make quick progress:
– Reforming Section 230
– Preventing foreign interference of our elections
– Passing federal privacy law
– Setting rules that allow people to safely transfer data between services
LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: The grim news is not limited to Afghanistan as the number of Americans hospitalized due to COVID-19 eclipsed 100,000, the first time that figure had been reached since January when case totals were routinely north of 200,000 per day (The Washington Post).
Included in that total are more than 25,000 individuals who are in intensive care units. As of Aug. 14, more than 1,900 children were hospitalized due to COVID-19, a record total that coincides with the opening of schools across parts of the country and is concentrated largely in Southern states with low vaccination rates.
“Our hospital system across Alabama is beyond capacity. Last week we had net negative ICU beds, and that’s pediatric and adult together,” David Kimberlin, co-director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s of Alabama, told Time Magazine. “Doctors are doing CPR in the back of pickup trucks.”
Adding to the problems, the death toll continues to pick up steam. According to a model done by the University of Washington, one of the more influential predictors in the U.S., nearly 100,000 more deaths are expected by Dec. 1, with that total potentially being halved if Americans wear masks in public spaces. More than 1,100 Americans are dying daily, according to the latest seven-day average (The Associated Press).
CNBC: U.S. COVID-19 cases show signs of slowing, even as fatalities surge again.
The Hill: Baltimore County declares emergency as COVID-19 cases rise 370 percent.
The Wall Street Journal: As the delta variant surges, so does demand for at-home COVID-19 tests.
The Hill: One in 3 Americans contracted COVID-19 by the end of 2020, many without knowing it.
At the state level, the Texas Supreme Court on Thursday sided with Gov. Greg Abbott (R) by blocking San Antonio’s mask mandate for public schools. The move comes days after Bexar County (home to San Antonio) was allowed to implement the rule across the school system, but the latest move sends the county back to square one.
“We’re not going to let an ongoing court battle distract us from the real fight against COVID-19,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg (D) tweeted in response to the state high court’s decision, pleading with individuals to get vaccinated and wear a mask (San Antonio Express News).
The Associated Press: Illinois requires educators, health workers to get vaccinated.
Aaron Blake, The Washington Post: Vaccine conspiracy theorists become even more desperate after full FDA authorization.
Reuters: Contaminant in Moderna vaccines delivered to Japan suspected to be metallic particles.
The Washington Post: Delta Air Lines doesn’t want to call the delta variant the “delta variant.”
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: The U.S. Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol broke his silence on Thursday and defended his actions, saying in an interview that he saved “countless lives” and only pulled the trigger as a “last resort.”
Lt. Michael Byrd, a 28-year veteran of the Capitol Police, said in an interview with “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt that there were roughly 60 to 80 members of Congress and staffers trapped in the chamber of the House as he tried to keep rioters from breaking into the Speaker’s lobby. After imploring those trying to infiltrate doors of the lobby, Babbitt tried to climb through one, prompting Byrd to shoot her in the shoulder. She died later in the day from her injury.
“I tried to wait as long as I could,” Byrd told Holt about deciding to discharge his weapon. “I hoped and prayed no one tried to enter through those doors. But their failure to comply required me to take the appropriate action to save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers.”
Byrd was cleared of wrongdoing by the Capitol Police and the Justice Department this week. However, he has been in hiding because his name circulated on right-wing websites and Babbitt’s death became a rallying cry among those supportive of former President Trump (NBC News).
Meanwhile, Byrd’s interview was not the only news emanating out of the Capitol Police on Thursday as seven officers filed a lawsuit against Trump, friend Roger Stone and members of right-wing extremist groups for their roles in the deadly Jan. 6 riot.
As The Hill’s John Kruzel writes, the civil rights suit alleges that Trump, acting hand-in-glove with groups including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, engaged in acts of domestic terrorism designed to unlawfully keep him in power despite losing the 2020 election.
“As this lawsuit makes clear, the Jan. 6 insurrection was not just an attack on individuals, but an attack on democracy itself,” said Damon Hewitt, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is representing the seven officers, including five who are Black. “It was a blatant attempt to stifle the votes and voices of millions of Americans, particularly Black voters.”
> Budget brouhaha: Democrats are prepping for intra-party battles as they craft the mammoth spending plan to pass via reconciliation in an attempt to codify a top priority of Biden’s agenda.
Fresh off a fight with centrist Democrats, top lawmakers are expecting additional challenges to crop up in the push for consensus among members as they write and advance the spending bill. As The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda writes, congressional Democratic leaders and top committee members will need to balance the priorities of moderates and progressives, and House members and Senators, because nearly every Democratic lawmaker will need to vote for the bill in order for it to pass.
Politico: $3.5 trillion or bust? Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) goes all-out to protect Dems’ social spending plans.
The Hill: Sanders not ruling out trips to home states of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to pitch spending.
POLITICS: Conservative radio host Larry Elder, a Republican candidate in next month’s California election to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), is under scrutiny over his past conduct and some controversial statements. Elder boasts broad name recognition, a conservative following and climbed in polls this summer. But recent allegations that he brandished a gun in 2015 at his ex-fiancée and made offensive remarks about women threaten to derail GOP efforts to oust or wound the governor in the nation’s most populous blue state (The Hill).
> Population is one thing and the location of potential voters is another. The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that several states are taking new steps to count prisoners at their home addresses rather than at the facilities in which they are incarcerated. The decisions have consequences for congressional redistricting and real-life implications for everything from education funding to emergency assistance.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Even now, it’s not too late to avoid a tsunami of evictions, by The Washington Post editorial board. https://wapo.st/3jhhRlT
The Kabul airport massacre: President Biden can’t duck responsibility for the failure to provide enough force to execute a safe evacuation, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3zogO9w
What’s happening in Afghanistan is horrible. But how else was U.S. involvement going to end? by Eugene Robinson, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3gBf1X0
Why Facebook supports updated internet privacy regulations
Protecting privacy means something different than it did in 1996 — the last time comprehensive internet regulations were passed.
We’ve introduced tools like Privacy Checkup that help people control their information. Now we need updated regulations to set consistent data protection standards.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes for a 9 a.m. pro forma session. Senators are expected back in Washington on Sept. 13.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8 a.m. Biden and Vice President Harris, just back from a two-country trip to Southeast Asia, will meet with U.S. national security advisers at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Biden holds bilateral meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett beginning at 10:30 a.m. The president will participate in a weekly economic briefing at 4 p.m. in the Oval Office.
The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank holds its annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo., via virtual presentation. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at 10 a.m. ET. Analysts await his latest outlook on inflation and the pandemic — and a gradual ramp-down of central bank support for the economy (The Associated Press).
Economic indicator: The Commerce Department at 8:30 a.m. releases a report on U.S. consumer spending in July.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m. The administration’s pandemic response team briefs journalists at 11 a.m.
➔ SUPREME COURT: Justices on Thursday blocked the administration’s moratorium on rental evictions, which was set to expire on Oct. 3. By a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court lifted the stay on a federal judge’s order, which found the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction freeze unlawful (The Hill). The challenge to the policy was brought by a landlord group that has been fighting since last fall to block the federal eviction suspension, which has cost property owners some $19 billion each month. An estimated 3.5 million people could face eviction by October. The administration without success has urged Congress to address the problem in law. It is trying to move federal rental assistance funds to the states that could help cash-strapped renters and landlords during the pandemic. However, only $5.1 billion of $46.5 billion in aid was disbursed as of July (The New York Times).
➔ STATE WATCH: Determined to reduce drug overdoses and deaths, California wants to try paying drug addicts using state Medicaid funds to stay sober, a technique used at the federal level with military veterans (The Associated Press).
➔ UPCOMING DC DEMONSTRATIONS: For the second consecutive year, civil rights activists will descend on the National Mall on Aug. 28, the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington speech, this time to dial up pressure on Democrats to find a way to enact the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (The Hill and WJLA). … On Sept. 18, a “Justice for J6” rally is to gather at the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. The event, which has triggered law enforcement warnings and alerts, seeks to show solidarity to free jailed insurrection defendants who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, were arrested and are being adjudicated (WUSA9 and The Daily Beast).
➔ BEHIND BARS: The Federal Bureau of Prisons announced on Thursday it is shutting down the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, the jail that has come under increased scrutiny after Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide there two years ago. The prison will be closed in order to improve multiple aspects of the facility, including lax security and failing infrastructure. The jail in lower Manhattan currently has 233 inmates, all of whom will likely be shifted to a federal prison in Brooklyn (The Associated Press and The Hill).
And finally … A rousing round of applause for this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners!
Here’s a toast to all who aced our puzzle about the Rolling Stones following the sad news that Charlie Watts, the band’s longtime and legendary drummer, died this week: Candi Cee, Michel Romage, Patrick Kavanagh, Daniel Bachhuber, Ki Harvey, Lou Tisler, Rich Davis, Bob Hickerson, John Donato and Joe Erdmann.
They knew that “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was the band’s first international No. 1 hit single way back in 1965.
“Sticky Fingers” (released in 1971) was the first Rolling Stones album to feature the now-iconic tongue and lips logo.
Members of the band relocated from England to the South of France to begin their lives as tax exiles over unpaid taxes owed to the British government.
Finally, the Rolling Stones went through two other potential drummers before landing on Watts as their full-time master of the big beat in 1963.