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Republicans want answers in Iraq-Hezbollah case

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WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans demanded answers Thursday from the Justice Department and Pentagon for why a Hezbollah suspect accused in the death of five US soldiers was transferred to Iraqi custody before being charged with war crimes.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee wanted assurances US officials would seek to keep Ali Musa Daqduq behind bars, even as an Iraqi court ruled the Hezbollah commander be released over lack of evidence.

“Now an Iraqi court has cleared Daqduq of any criminal charges under Iraqi law and, as we and many other observers had feared, may be set free without being held to account for his crimes against the United States and its soldiers,” they wrote.

US lawmakers have long expressed interest in Daqduq, and his transfer to Iraq custody in December as US forces exited Iraq sparked a political furor in Washington.

Committee ranking Republican Chuck Grassley was incensed that while Congress was briefed on Daqduq’s imminent release to Iraqi custody, “they never mentioned that the administration was considering (war crimes) charges, which were filed approximately two weeks later,” he wrote in the letter, citing a report by The New York Times.

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“Either the administration was purposefully withholding information from Congress or it had not done the due diligence required to file charges in a serious case against a dangerous terrorist,” he added.

“If the administration was serious in pursuing Daqduq, officials had many years when they could have brought charges against him, yet the administration waited until he was not available to prosecute.”

The Republicans demanded a copy of the military commission charge sheet against Daqduq, an explanation of why the Iraqi prosecution failed, and whether there were US efforts to have him transferred back to US custody or extradited to the United States.

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They also demanded an explanation of why US briefers “failed to indicate that criminal charges were prepared but not presented to a military commission prior to turning Daqduq over to the Iraqi government.”

US-led forces captured Daqduq in 2007. At the time, the United States accused Iranian special forces of using the Shiite militant group Hezbollah to train Iraqi extremists and of planning the 2007 attack.

[Image via Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons licensed]


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CNN

Trump supporter blames Democrats for being targeted by the president: ‘Why is that racist?’

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CNN interviewed a supporter of President Donald Trump in Eau Claire, Wisconsin who refused to acknowledge the racism in the president's "Go Back" attacks on four women of color in Congress.

The network interviewed Kerri Krumenauer of Wiersgalla Plumbing & Heating Company about Trump's attacks.

"How is it racist?" she asked.

"If you don't like this country, get out," she demanded. "Leave!"

She then showed how misinformed she was about the incident.

"He didn't use any names -- they stood up," she falsely claimed. In fact, Trump did use names and the targets did not stand up as they were not at his North Carolina campaign rally.

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2020 Election

Here’s how Trump hopes to recreate his 2016 presidential win — and how Democrats can send him packing

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Writing for CNN on Saturday, election forecaster Harry Enten explained how President Donald Trump's recent, racist behavior lies in his desire to recreate the same electoral conditions that gave him a victory in 2016 in the presidential election next year.

"The Trump strategy is pretty simple: 1. Drive up the unfavorable ratings of his Democratic rival as he did in 2016 in order to compensate for his own low ratings. 2. Bank on an electoral college/popular vote split as he did in 2016. 3. Use a campaign of racial resentment to drive up turnout even more among groups favorable toward the President," wrote Enten. As he noted, Democrats have excellent odds to flip back Michigan and Pennsylvania, but they will have to work harder to win back any of the other states Trump flipped from the 2012 Obama camp — in particular Wisconsin, which was the closest state after those two.

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American, Italian and Russian blast off for ISS

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US, Italian and Russian astronauts blasted into space Saturday, headed for the International Space Station, in a launch coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, NASA's Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency set off on a six-hour journey to the orbiting science lab from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1628 GMT.

A NASA TV commentator hailed a "textbook launch" minutes after blastoff in "sweltering" weather in Baikonur, where daytime temperatures reached 43 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

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