A low-energy Donald Trump whined and moaned his way through a second debate with Joe Biden. The Democratic nominee laid out Trump’s many failures on the coronavirus response, national security and more.
Meanwhile, it turns out the Taliban’s Air Force is based out of a high-tech American command center. A new report reveals US drone operators have secretly been helping the Taliban on missions in remote eastern Afghanistan.
And lastly, a judge upholds a murder charge against the cop who killed George Floyd. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison calls the ruling an important step forward.
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Joe Biden and Donald Trump met at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee last night for their second and final debate. Kristen Welker of NBC News moderated – this time, with the help of a mute button for Trump’s inevitable filibusters.
As an opener, Biden reminded viewers that more than two hundred thousand Americans have died from the coronavirus and said QUOTE if you don’t hear anything else I say, hear this: anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America ENDQUOTE. He said Trump’s promises of a vaccine in a few weeks’ time is a lie.
Trump, in his typical rambling fashion, struggled to defend his record on the pandemic. Of catching the coronavirus, he said QUOTE I learned a lot. I learned a lot ENDQUOTE. To which Biden responded QUOTE Learning to live with it? Come on, we’re dying with it... We’re about to lose two hundred thousand more people. ENDQUOTE.
Trump’s tone was markedly whiny throughout. Biden remained sharply on the offensive. It will probably go down as one of the better nights of his otherwise unobtrusive campaign.
US drones support Taliban
The Washington Post reports that American forces in Afghanistan have made a practice of providing air support to the Taliban, which is fighting a local ISIS group in the eastern province of Konar. Inside the Joint Special Operations Command counterterrorism task force based at Bagram air base, the team working on this mission is jokingly known as QUOTE the Taliban Air Force ENDQUOTE.
There is reportedly no direct US military communication with the Taliban on these missions. Instead, drone pilots try to guess where Taliban commanders need help by remotely observing battle conditions and listening in on the group.
Even though the Taliban is fighting the Islamic State, it remains allied with al-Qaeda, the enemy that brought US troops to Afghanistan in the first place. Last fall and winter, as the JSOC task force was conducting the strikes, the Trump administration’s public line was that it was hammering the Taliban harder than they have ever been hit before. In reality, the US military has been quietly helping the Taliban in Konar.
Loren Crowe, who was shot in the leg as an infantry company commander in Konar, told the Post that he worried that the military was acting like a hammer seeking nails to pound. Crowe added that the local militants who comprise ISIS groups in Konar may not be so big a threat to Americans as they’ve been made out to be. After two decades of war, it’s no wonder we’ve lost track of who we’re supposed to be fighting and why.
George Floyd case advances
A judge in Minnesota yesterday upheld second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges against the former Minneapolis officer in the killing of George Floyd, CBS News reports. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill dismissed a lesser charge of third- degree murder against the officer, Derek Chauvin.
Cahill also declined to dismiss charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter against the other officers involved: Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. Chauvin was the one who pressed his knee into Floyd's neck during a May arrest as the handcuffed Black man begged, “I can't breathe.” The judge noted that Chauvin’s demeanor never changed despite Floyd’s plaintive cries and demands from the bystanders.
In his ruling, Cahill found probable cause exists for the state to prove the charges against Thao, Kueng and Lane and the more serious charges against Chauvin. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is handling the prosecution, called the ruling QUOTE an important, positive step forward in the path toward justice for George Floyd, his family, our community, and Minnesota ENDQUOTE. According to CBS, Judge Cahill is still deciding whether the jury should be anonymous; if the trial should happen in Hennepin County; and whether the officers involved should have separate trials.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
Politico reported yesterday that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is considering a position in Biden’s cabinet, possibly as Labor Secretary. Two people close to Sanders, including one former aide, said Sanders is keen to join a potential Biden administration and has reached out to allies on the transition team. Robert Reich, who served as Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration, said Sanders would be QUOTE terrific ENDQUOTE. We know!
A four hundred and sixty five-page transcript of a deposition from 2016 given by Ghislaine Maxwell was released yesterday. In that testimony, the Miami Herald reports, Maxwell denied all knowledge of illegal sex trafficking by her friend, the late Jeffrey Epstein. But, as the Herald points out, she also made claims that contradict her sworn statements elsewhere. We’ll see if Maxwell can get her stories straight as her trial moves forward.
A wildfire in Colorado exploded sixfold in size in one day, causing hundreds to evacuate and turning the sky an eerie shade of orange. The Washington Post reports that the East Troublesome Fire has all the hallmarks of climate change. It’s burning at an elevation of nine thousand feet at a time of year when snow should be falling, during a severe drought aggravated by record heat. Yikes.
New York City, Seattle and Portland filed a lawsuit yesterday to invalidate their designation by the Trump administration as QUOTE anarchist jurisdictions ENDQUOTE. Announcing the lawsuit, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called Trump’s threats an unlawful abuse of federal power. She added QUOTE It’s immoral, unconstitutional, and shameful that we are forced to expend any resources on this political theater ENDQUOTE. Anarchists, meanwhile, are delighted at the prospect of no longer being associated with Mayors Durkan, Ted Wheeler, and Bill de Blasio.
That’s all for the AM Quickie. Join us this afternoon on the Majority Report.
OCT 23, 2020 - AM QUICKIE
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Corey Pein
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn