‘Really troubling’ vs. ‘nothing improper’
International | The political drama over the president’s phone call
by Mindy Belz
Posted 9/26/19, 06:34 pm
UKRAINE: The whistleblower complaint released Thursday morning shows U.S. intelligence officials received multiple complaints that President Donald Trump sought to use the powers of his office to coerce Ukraine to investigate a 2020 presidential rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. The intelligence community’s inspector general, a Trump appointee, found the complaints “urgent and credible.” The White House called the report “nothing more than a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings—all of which shows nothing improper.” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the contents of the complaint “really troubling” but criticized Democrats for “using words like impeachment before they knew anything about the actual substance.”
UNITED NATIONS: Foreign diplomats gathered in New York, inured to political drama in Washington, carried on business as usual at the UN General Assembly, where nearly 30 heads of state gave speeches Thursday, notably Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas and others.
FRANCE declared a day of mourning following the death of Jacques Chirac, 86, a center-right politician who led the country for two terms as president, twice as prime minister, and nearly two decades as mayor of Paris.
HONDURAS: A Honduran youth pastor sent back to Mexico under the controversial U.S. “remain in Mexico” policy was granted asylum in the United States.
SYRIA: A fierce debate within the scientific community has erupted over whether the Assad regime was responsible for a 2017 chemical weapons attack that killed more than 80 people.
EGYPT: The government has arrested nearly 2,000 people since street protests flared up over the weekend.
UNITED STATES: The State Department on Thursday announced a 2020 refugee cap of 18,000—countering reports the Trump administration might zero out refugee admissions altogether, but the lowest level in the current refugee program’s 50-year-history. The president must sign off on the figure for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
IRAQ: The latest breakdown on U.S. refugee resettlement of minorities persecuted by ISIS shows a continued precipitous decline—from a high of 4,625 Iraqi Christians in fiscal year 2014 to 58 so far in fiscal 2019, which ends Monday.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told me in July, “Our mission set has been to drive better outcomes for them where they are.”
- But U.S. funding to reconstruct Iraqi communities devastated by ISIS has largely gone to a U.S. for-profit contractor, Chemonics, that’s raised concerns from Iraqi church leaders. Earlier this week, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced additional assistance for Iraq, including a $6.8 million award for Chaldean Catholics in the Erbil archdiocese, where most of the displaced Iraqi Christians remain. The funds will be administered under a contract with Catholic Relief Services, not directly administered by the archdiocese, church officials confirmed.
- The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Thursday held a hearing on Capitol Hill about religious minority efforts to remain in Iraq. USAID’s Hal Ferguson highlighted the “tectonic forces” against religious minorities, including the lack of security. Iraqi Christians complained the panel featured no Iraqi church leaders. Iraqi Christian Foundation President Zina Kiryakos told me several were offered by Iraqi-American groups, but USCIRF “refuses to tell us why Iraqi Christians will not be allowed to speak.” USCIRF Commissioner Tony Perkins said the commission “sympathizes” with religious communities suffering from ISIS violence and doesn’t consider the hearing “an exhaustive or definitive set of perspectives.” He said Iraqi Christian groups would be allowed to submit statements for the hearing record.
I’M SPEAKING Friday on a news panel with some esteemed Washington Post colleagues at The Gathering in Dallas. Look me up if you’re there!
I’M READING A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul.
Editor’s note: WORLD has updated this report to include a reaction from USCIRF to the response to Thursday’s hearing on Iraq.
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Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.