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In which neither a call to the Australian prime minister nor a call-in for a raid in Yemen goes as planned.
Tara Golshan and Jeff Stein contributed to tonight’s Sentences.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie — oy! oy! oy!
- Over the weekend, President Donald Trump called Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for what was supposed to be a pleasant introductory chat with a staunch US ally about nothing much in particular. As America learned on Wednesday night, it did not go well. [NYT / Jane Perlez]
- Trump used the call to berate his Australian counterpart over a refugee agreement between the two countries — a pact that the White House press secretary had promised to uphold just the day before, but that Trump all but threatened to break. [Vox / Dara Lind]
- Trump also took time to boast to Turnbull about the size of his Inauguration crowd and the scale of his Electoral College victory. The president apparently then told the Australian PM that he had been on four other calls with world leaders that day, but that "this was the worst call by far.” [Washington Post / Greg Miller and Phillip Rucker]
- By Wednesday evening, after news of the call broke, Trump was threatening to break the international refugee agreement with Australia. On Twitter. [Twitter / Donald Trump]
- The call may have been Trump's worst one on Sunday, but it probably wasn't the worst he's had in the past week. In a conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Friday, Trump apparently said that Mexico had to take care of its "bad hombres" or the US might have to do so itself, according to a transcript of the conversation leaked to the Associated Press. [The Associated Press]
- Now, it's not totally clear if Trump casually and accidentally threatened to invade Mexico. The Mexican government furiously denied the accuracy of the transcript leaked to the AP, as did the White House. Reporting from CNN suggests Trump did use the word "bad hombres" but did not threaten to send troops to Mexico. So that's ... good? [CNN / Jake Tapper, Eli Watkins, Jim Acosta, and Euan McKirdy]
- Still, it was more than a little scary to watch as the Trump administration race around tamping down rumors that the United States was toying with an unprovoked war against Mexico. And that unpredictability has real-world consequences too, by undermining the faith of America's foreign allies. What happens next, as with so much with Trump, is anyone's guess. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
The first covert military mission on Trump's watch doesn't go as planned
- The first covert mission on President Trump's watch — a raid in Yemen — didn't go as planned. Now the United States military has launched an investigation into the number of civilians killed Saturday.
- [Guardian / Ewen MacAskill, Spencer Ackerman, and Jason Burke]
- The raid was initially tasked with scooping up cellphones and laptops at a suspected al-Qaeda base in Yemen. But the ensuing firefight and air raid killed roughly 30 people, including 10 women and children, medics at the scene reported. (The US claimed the deaths of 14 "militants.")
- The US reported the death of one US Navy SEAL. In addition, three US special forces officers were wounded, and a $75 million American military aircraft was "intentionally destroyed." [Reuters / Ayesha Rascoe]
- The mission was always going to be risky. Because the United States does not have a "robust presence" in Yemen, counterterrorism operations in the area are increasingly complicated. That puts the military at risk for botched missions — which could ultimately escalate anti-US sentiments among the tribal groups on the ground. [CNN / Tim Lister]
- Former President Barack Obama’s national security team had reviewed the plans before leaving office, but decided against acting at the time. The Pentagon was waiting for a moonless night, which would not have happened until after the start of Trump’s term.
- [The New York Times / Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger]
- Trump approved the raid five days after taking office, with his trusted advisers, son-in-law Jared Kushner and chief strategist Steve Bannon, by his side. Some unnamed military officials have reported that Trump approved the mission without adequate intelligence or backup preparations. [CBS / Reena Flores]
- Despite the death toll, the White House has declared the raid a success, claiming the mission yielded important intelligence. Yemen's foreign minister, unsurprisingly, had a different take on the operation, condemning the United States' actions and saying the raid constituted "extrajudicial killings" on Twitter Monday. [BBC]
- The body of the killed US Navy SEAL, Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, was returned to the US Wednesday. Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump attended the dignified transfer of his remains at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. [ABC/Jordyn Phelps]
When they go Milo, we go ... violent?
- More than 150 masked anti-fascist saboteurs violently disrupted a speech far-right white nationalist Milo Yiannopoulos planned to give at UC Berkeley on Wednesday night — smashing windows, throwing rocks at police, and hurling Molotov cocktails that ignited fires in campus buildings. [CNN / Madison Park and Kyung Lah]
- The Berkeley College Republicans had invited Yiannopoulos to speak on campus last month, setting off peaceful protests that drew thousands demanding the speech be canceled. Yiannopoulos, uninjured after the riot broke out, was escorted from the campus by security forces. [The Guardian / Julia Carrie Wong]
- The violent turn has revived questions for the left about the appropriate form resistance to Donald Trump and his supporters should take. Earlier this month, the left debated the morality of punching Richard Spencer — who is regarded as both a "Nazi" and a "fascist." [Vox / German Lopez]
- Responding to the incident (because of course he did), President Donald Trump defended Yiannopoulos and attacked the university. He baselessly accused UC Berkeley of not allowing "free speech"* (*the school defended Yiannopoulos's talk in the face of massive student unrest, and it was only canceled at the request of law enforcement) and then threatened on Twitter to revoke its "FEDERAL FUNDS." (The all-caps are the president's.) [The New York Times / Thomas Fuller and Christopher Mele]
- There's real leverage here, should Trump choose to actually use it. The university received more than $1.6 billion in federal aid in 2016 — though it's not clear how easy it would be for Trump to take it away. [Los Angeles Times / Matt Hamilton, Peter H. King, Teresa Watanabe, and Shelby Grad]
- A 22-year-old student is blocking the launch of a French edition of Breitbart by hoarding the domain names breitbart.fr, breibartnews.fr, and breitbartnewsnetwork.fr. [The Verge / Amar Toor]
- In Senegal, a rare case of chimpanzee regicide/cannibalism. [National Geographic / Michael Greshko]
- Now, more than ever, civics education seems crucial. But is it even possible to design in a non-ideological way? [Slate / Dana Goldstein]
- The Indian government released a big economic report containing a whole chapter on universal basic income — and implying that Gandhi would have favored it. [FT / David Keohane]
- What Final Fantasy VII can teach us about America in 2017. [A.V. Club / Patrick Lee]
- "Cats were never on the same plane of existence as man, they’ve always been above. They have always been divine. They are royalty. They are creatures to be revered and thanked, not mocked by rhetorical questions about who’s a good boy." [SB Nation / Zito Madu]
- "Three administration officials who did not want to be identified said Judge Hardiman hit the road to Washington to help them maintain the illusion that the selection process was still competitive." [NYT / Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman]
- "'I like Martha, and I admire her a lot,' one classicist, an expert in Hellenistic philosophy, told me. 'But with this dictionary thing, she's really pooping all over herself.'" [Lingua Franca / Daniel Mendelsohn]
- "At times in the interviews, Dr. Bornstein was moody, ranging from saying that Mr. Trump’s health 'is none of your business' to later volunteering facts. He also meandered, referring to his longtime study of Italian and stories about medical schools floating cadavers to an island off the waters of New York." [NYT / Lawrence Altman]
- "The 27-year-old was deported in May for missing his third and last immigration court date. 'I know it seems crazy,' he says. 'I knew how important it was, but I was super stressed with life and it just didn’t work out. I needed to be up and out of the house by five a.m. to make it to my hearing at eight a.m., which was in Los Angeles and I was in Orange County. I had no money for transportation. It would have cost me $100, but it was $100 I didn’t have. I was stressed about getting there, but I guess I was more stressed about taking care of my family.'" [Narratively / Jaime Jacques]