Archive for Oma Seddiq

Rep. Jim Jordan says he doesn’t know how many times he spoke with Trump on January 6

Jim Jordan
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
  • Rep. Jim Jordan says he doesn't know how many times he spoke with Trump on January 6.
  • "I don't recall the number of times. But it's not about me," he told a House panel on Wednesday.
  • Jordan could become a material witness in the House select committee's investigation of January 6.

Rep. Jim Jordan on Wednesday says he doesn't know how many conversations he had with former President Donald Trump on January 6.

"Of course I talked to the president. I talked to him that day. I've been clear about that. I don't recall the number of times. But it's not about me," the Ohio Republican said during a House panel hearing on a resolution to hold Trump's former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for his refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena. The committee voted 9-4 along party lines to advance the resolution.

Jordan, in response to questioning from Rules Committee Chairman Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern, said that he only spoke with Trump after the attack, refuting a Politico report in August that said he spoke with the former president during the siege.

Jordan previously revealed that he talked to Trump at least once on January 6 but refused to offer any details about the conversation, telling Fox News in July: "I never talk about what we talk about."

Trump's interactions on January 6 have emerged as part of the House select committee's probe into what happened that day. The committee has so far issued subpoenas for documents and information from a handful of Trump officials, including Bannon, who has refused to comply.

One of the committee's members, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, said in July that Jordan could become a material witness as the investigation goes on.

Cheney, a vocal Trump critic, is one of two Republicans on the committee who's also been outspoken against the former president and the January 6 attack.

Most Republicans, including Jordan, have ridiculed the January 6 investigation, with some downplaying the day's violence.

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Abortion providers in Texas are asking the Supreme Court to quickly review the state’s new abortion law

supreme court protest
Abortion rights activist gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court to protest against the recent abortion laws passed across the country in recent weeks
  • Texas abortion providers asked the Supreme Court to quickly consider the state's new anti-abortion law.
  • "This chaos must come to an end, and that is why we are going back to the Supreme Court today," a president of an abortion clinic said.
  • The Supreme Court previously declined a request to block the Texas law, which took effect on September 1.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A group of abortion providers and advocacy groups on Thursday once again turned to the Supreme Court in their effort to block Texas' new law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which took effect on September 1.

The group is calling on the nation's high court to intervene and fast-track the case, as the federal appeals court that is scheduled to review their challenge, the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, won't hold a hearing until December.

"This Court's review is urgently needed," read the brief filed on Thursday by Texas abortion providers, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and others.

"We're asking the Supreme Court for this expedited appeal because the Fifth Circuit has done nothing to change the dire circumstances on the ground in Texas," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

"We need this case to move as quickly as possible. Right now, patients are being forced to travel hundreds of miles in the middle of a pandemic to find abortion care," she added.

"For 23 days, we've been forced to deny essential abortion care for the vast majority of patients who come to us," Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman's Health, an abortion clinic in Texas, said in a statement.

"This chaos must come to an end, and that is why we are going back to the Supreme Court today," Miller continued.

The ask comes after the Supreme Court previously declined a request from abortion providers in Texas to block the state's new abortion law. In a 5-4 vote on September 2, the Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to stay in place.

The court's majority argued that the ruling was a technical one and they did not want to weigh in while the case was still being litigated in the lower courts.

"In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas's law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts," the majority wrote in an unsigned opinion.

The move was met with fierce backlash from abortion providers and pro-abortion groups and politicians, including President Joe Biden. The Department of Justice on September 9 filed a lawsuit against Texas to try and block the new abortion law.

Texas' six-week abortion ban has so far withstood legal challenges because of its unique enforcement mechanism. The law invites ordinary citizens, rather than state officials, to enforce the ban. That means an individual can sue an abortion provider or anyone they believe who "aids and abets" someone getting the procedure beyond the six-week mark. Successful plaintiffs will be rewarded at least $10,000, in addition to legal fees.

It's uncertain whether the Supreme Court will take up the abortion providers' request, as cases are normally played out in the lower courts first before making their way up to the high court.

The Supreme Court will consider a major abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization,
starting December 1. The case concerns a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and is widely considered a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court decision that established the constitutional right to an abortion.

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Federal judge in Texas set hearing date for Biden administration’s request to block the state’s new abortion law

Merrick Garland
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks about voting rights at the Justice Department in Washington, on Friday, June 11, 2021.
  • A Texas federal judge will hear the Justice Department's bid to block the state's new abortion law.
  • US District Judge Robert Pitman set a hearing date for October 1.
  • The DOJ filed an emergency motion late Tuesday, seeking to block the Texas law.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A federal judge on Wednesday set a hearing date for next month to review the Biden administration's request to block a Texas law that bans nearly all abortions in the state.

US District Judge Robert Pitman will consider the Department of Justice's request for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to the Texas law on October 1.

The DOJ filed the emergency motion late Tuesday, asking the judge to block Senate Bill 8, a Texas statute that prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, a time before many people know they are pregnant, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

The legal action came after the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote on September 2 kept the Texas law in place, 24 hours after it went into effect. The court's narrow majority argued the decision was technical and the justices did not rule on the constitutionality of the law, which could still be legally challenged.

Pro-abortion groups and politicians, including President Joe Biden, were outraged by the decision. The DOJ last week sued the state of Texas over its new law which it says is "clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent," Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

The Texas law has withstood legal action thus far because of the unique way it has been designed. The law invites private citizens, rather than state officials, to enforce the ban. That means a private citizen can sue an abortion provider, doctor or an Uber driver taking a patient to an abortion clinic. Successful lawsuits will be rewarded up to $10,000, in addition to legal fees.

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Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Stephen Breyer want to convince you that the Supreme Court isn’t political, but experts say ‘it’s naive to think people will’ believe them

Justice Amy Coney Barrett
US Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett speaks to an audience at the 30th anniversary of the University of Louisville McConnell Center in Kentucky on September 12, 2021.
  • Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Stephen Breyer have tried to defend the Supreme Court's integrity.
  • "This court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks," Barrett said at the McConnell Center this week.
  • Yet experts said they're ignoring the realities of how politics affects the court and its justices.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

While critics blast the Supreme Court as hyperpartisan, Justice Amy Coney Barrett this week attempted to sway public perception, insisting the institution is independent from politics.

"My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks," she told attendees at the 30th anniversary of the University of Louisville's McConnell Center, a department founded by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican lawmaker who championed Barrett's nomination to the bench and introduced her at Sunday's event.

Barrett's colleague, Justice Stephen Breyer, likewise tried to protect the integrity of the Supreme Court this week.

"A lot of people will strongly disagree with many of the opinions or dissents that you write, but still, internally, you must feel that this is not a political institution," he told The Washington Post on Monday.

The "single most important point that I hope people will take" from my 27 years on the nation's high court "is judges are not junior league politicians," Breyer, 83, added.

stephen breyer
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

"It's naive to think people will - it's hard to believe that you can convince people of that," William Lasser, a Clemson University professor focused on the politics of the Supreme Court, told Insider in response to the two justices' comments.

Though the conservative and liberal members of the court sought to defend their roles, they are ignoring what experts claim is the obvious: politics undeniably affects the Supreme Court and its justices.

"If the justices have to defend themselves from being partisan, that's already a problem in and of itself," Lasser added. "The court has always been a political institution for its history."

Public approval of the Supreme Court is at an all-time low

Justices have long tried to uphold confidence in the federal judiciary, often dismissing criticisms that its members are loyal to the Republican or Democratic presidents who appoint them. In one instance in 2018, Chief Justice John Roberts pushed back on then-President Donald Trump labeling a judge who ruled against his policy an "Obama judge."

"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," Roberts said in a statement at the time. "What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."

Despite their efforts, public approval of the US' highest court appears to be eroding. Just 37% of Americans - an all-time low - approve of the way Supreme Court is handling its job, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday. A Gallup poll conducted in July also found that public approval in the Supreme Court declined by 9 percentage points compared to the same month in 2020.

Supreme Court
Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo on April 23, 2021. Seated from left are Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. Standing from left are Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett.

"Certainly, if you disagree with either of these justices, it's hard to look at Justice Barrett, as a Democrat, and say, 'I believe that she's not acting like a Republican,'" Lasser said. "It's hard to look at Breyer, if you're a Republican, and not see a Democrat."

Lasser took particular issue with Barrett's comment on Sunday that the justices' "judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties."

"It's true that their judicial philosophies are authentic and they believe them very deeply," he said, but "they're underestimating the extent to which these partisan viewpoints influence their judicial philosophies."

Allison Orr Larsen, a law professor at the College of William and Mary, shared a similar point, telling Insider that it's over-simplistic to call the justices political, but that the justices aren't immune from politics.

"They have views about the way the world works and those views necessarily influence how they decide cases, particularly the high-profile ones," she said. "I would not call that partisan behavior, but I would not call it strictly legal. There are political beliefs and normative commitments that divide the Justices from one another, and that is undeniable."

abortion protest Brett Kavanaugh home
Protesters gather outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Chevy Chase, Md.

'The court is inevitably enmeshed in politics'

There are several other glaring ways in which the Supreme Court is plagued by politics.

To name a few: Republican and Democratic candidates regularly campaign on issues the Supreme Court rules on, the US president selects a Supreme Court nominee that the Senate then confirms them, and Americans frequently take sides in Supreme Court cases based on their political beliefs.

The heated confirmation hearings of Trump nominees Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Barrett highlight how politics have affected the court in recent years, according to Lawrence Baum, a political science professor at Ohio State University, whose expertise is the federal judiciary.

"Regardless of how the justices do their job, the court is inevitably enmeshed in politics," Baum said. "It's inescapable that the court is linked to a larger political world."

Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Trump, McConnell, and the Republican-led Senate faced widespread backlash last fall for rushing to confirm Barrett in the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

Barrett has largely avoided the public spotlight since, but her comments at the McConnell Center over the weekend have sparked new criticism. Her choice to appear at an event hosted by the GOP leader while trying to persuade the public that justices aren't partisan wasn't "wise," Larsen told Insider.

But Lasser, the Clemson University professor, pointed out: "Where else could she go?"

"She's not gonna go to a very liberal place and give a speech because she's not going to be invited to give a speech there," he said. "These worlds have become, as all our politics has become and as our society has become, increasingly polarized around these very issues that the court has both shaped and responded to."

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Psaki shoots down Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s pledge to ‘eliminate all rapists,’ saying ‘there has never in history’ been a leader who’s been able to do so

jen psaki greg abbott
White House press secretary Jen Psaki; Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's pledge to "eliminate all rapists."
  • "There has never in history of the country and the world been any leader who's ever been able to eliminate rape," she said.
  • The White House has criticized Texas' new law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday dismissed Gov. Greg Abbott's vow to "eliminate all rapists" amid criticism of Texas' new law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest.

"If Governor Abbott has a means of eliminating all rapists or all rape from the United States, then there'd be bipartisan support for that," Psaki told reporters during a White House press conference. But "there has never in history of the country and the world been any leader who's ever been able to eliminate rape, eliminate rapists from our streets."

Psaki reacted to comments Abbott made on Tuesday in Texas, when he was asked by a reporter: "Why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term?"

The governor responded that rape victims are given "at least six weeks" to get an abortion and pledged that "Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets."

"So goal No. 1 in the state of Texas is to eliminate rape so that no woman, no person, will be a victim of it," Abbott added.

Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday also ripped into Abbott's comments, saying: "To arrogantly dismiss concerns about rape survivors and to speak the words that were empty words, that were false words, that were fueled with not only arrogance but bravado, that is not who we want in our leaders."

The White House has sharply rebuked Texas' six-week abortion ban since it took effect last Wednesday. President Joe Biden said the law directly violates the Supreme Court's 1973 landmark decision, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.

The law is one of the most restrictive in the nation and prohibits nearly all abortions after the six-week mark of pregnancy, a time when many people do not yet know they are pregnant. It took effect after the Supreme Court denied a request from abortion providers in Texas to block it. The court's majority argued the ruling was technical and not based on the substance of the law, which could still be legally challenged.

Psaki reiterated on Wednesday that the White House is committed to helping women in Texas get access to safe and legal abortions.

"This law is a violation of your rights," Psaki said. "We are going to do everything we can to provide assistance as quickly as we can."

Read the original article on Business Insider

‘If it’s f—ed up in Afghanistan, it’s on us’: US veterans say Biden botched the withdrawal and should take responsibility for the ‘ongoing humanitarian crisis’

US marine with Afghan national army members
Former US Marine Michael Loyd with members of the Afghan national army in Afghanistan in 2012.
  • Biden has defended his handling of the situation in Afghanistan despite widespread criticism.
  • An ex-US marine said Biden is responsible for the fallout and the US should take accountability.
  • "If it's f---ed up in Afghanistan, it's on us," he said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Despite repeated calls and emails to US officials, Ed McCormick said he's had no success getting his two Afghan interpreters, who fear retribution from the Taliban, out of Kabul.

"It's already scary enough where daily I'm messaging both of these individuals and sometimes they take a little long to respond and I'm like, 'Oh my God, are they still there? Are they still alive?'" McCormick, a US army veteran deployed in Afghanistan in 2008 for a year and again in 2011 for six months, told Insider. "Eventually they respond, but there's a good chance that at some point they're not going to, and you can only assume the worst has happened."

Given President Joe Biden's looming August 31 deadline to complete the US's military withdrawal from Afghanistan - and the deadly attacks and escalating chaos at Kabul airport - McCormick is worried that his translators, who are awaiting their Special Immigrant Visa approval, won't be evacuated in time. He said he would feel "horrible and then partly responsible" if they end up stuck in the country.

"I would feel like I failed," McCormick, 47, added.

Biden has rejected pleas to maintain US troop presence in Afghanistan beyond the next five days to help transport Americans and Afghan refugees. At least 250,000 Afghans who worked with the US military remain in Afghanistan, according to estimates by The New York Times. And as many as 1,000 Americans are still waiting to be evacuated, per the State Department.

The Biden administration has insisted that it can evacuate every American who wants to get out and expressed national security concerns over staying past August 31. The Taliban has threatened "consequences" if the US extends the deadline.

joe biden
U.S. President Joe Biden pauses while giving remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House August 16, 2021.

McCormick disagreed with the White House's assessment, adding that the US has leverage in this situation. "What can the Taliban really do?" he asked. The militant group swiftly captured Afghanistan and collapsed the US-backed Afghan government on August 15. But now "they're trying to set up their government and they can't get into an armed conflict with American forces," he said.

"They need money from the World Bank. They need money from the UN. They need to keep the government going," McCormick continued. "They're not going to get that if they're attacking civilians and US troops in front of the world press."

'If it's f---ed up in Afghanistan, it's on us'

Biden has dismissed the widespread criticism he's received over the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan amid the US's military withdrawal. He's blamed his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, for emboldening the Taliban through his February 2020 deal to pull out US troops within 14 months. Biden has also pointed fingers at the Afghan government and military, claiming they lacked the "will" to fight the Taliban.

However, Michael Boyd, a former US marine who served in Afghanistan in 2012, said Biden needs to accept accountability of the fallout.

"The commander-in-chief is ultimately always responsible for the tactical situation on the ground," Boyd told Insider. "The president is always responsible."

"We've been there for 20 years," Boyd continued, "So if it's f---ed up in Afghanistan, it's on us."

US marine in Afghanistan
Former US Marine Michael Boyd in Afghanistan in 2012.

The 37-year-old veteran further pushed back on Biden, who's defended his handling of the pullout and repeatedly said that no matter how the US left Afghanistan, chaos was inevitable.

"That's BS, man," Boyd told Insider. "This did not have to be a collapse."

"What folks don't understand is how the US military can really almost do anything," he added. "Once you saw it falling, you could have stopped it."

The US faces an 'ongoing humanitarian crisis'

The US, working with the Taliban, has evacuated approximately 97,500 people out of Kabul since August 14, according to the White House. Afghan evacuees are being transported to military bases across the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe, before being taken to various resettlement destinations, which includes the US for some.

But the US's obligation to Afghanistan should go beyond a rescue mission, Boyd said.

"It's going to be an ongoing humanitarian crisis," he said. "We were there for 20 years. Why would we think that you just get to walk away?"

"As an American, we have a responsibility to the people until the end," Boyd added.

The Taliban's takeover has brought uncertainty to Afghanistan, which has made immense gains since 2001 when the militant group fell. Afghan girls and women have been able to work and go to school - rights that were restricted under the Taliban's last rule. The Taliban has tried to present a moderate stance since reappearing on the global stage, claiming they will guarantee the safety of Afghans and build better lives for them. But recent reports out of Kabul describing Taliban-led attacks against Afghans suggest otherwise.

"[Afghans] built themselves up," McCormick said. "Is the Taliban going to allow girls to go back to school? That remains to be seen. Are they going to be able to go back to work? That remains to be seen."

"That's what's frustrating to me," he added. "That's what's gone."

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GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger rips into Trump and Mike Pompeo for ‘getting rolled’ by the Taliban

adam kinzinger
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger slammed Trump and Pompeo for their negotiations with the Taliban last year.
  • "They set this up to fail," Kinzinger told CNN.
  • Kinzinger also blamed Biden over the current failure in Afghanistan.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger slammed the former Trump administration's deal with the Taliban, saying on Sunday that it set the stage for the current failure in Afghanistan.

The Illinois Republican said former President Donald Trump and his then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are at fault for America's "disastrous" withdrawal from the country.

"Donald Trump was publicly saying, 'We have to get out of Afghanistan at all costs. It's not worth it.' Mike Pompeo meets with the Taliban and tries to 'negotiate' something," Kinzinger said during an appearance on CNN.

"They ended up getting rolled almost as bad as Neville Chamberlain," he continued, referring to the British prime minister who negotiated the 1938 Munich Agreement, which was widely panned as enabling the Nazi invasion of Poland.

"They set this up to fail," Kinzinger said.

GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming on Sunday also blasted Trump's deal, calling it a "surrender" to the Taliban.

"We sat down and negotiated with terrorists," Cheney told NBC News. "We gave credibility to the Taliban ... We completely undercut the Afghan national government. We absolutely emboldened the Taliban."

While president, Trump was eager to remove American troops from Afghanistan and end the US' longest-running war. But he took an unprecedented step to try and fulfill that aim: negotiate directly with the Taliban. His administration engaged in a series of talks with the militant group in Qatar, and even invited them to a secret meeting at the presidential retreat Camp David for the 9/11 anniversary in 2019. Trump later reversed this decision after a Taliban attack killed a US service member in Afghanistan.

Still, Trump reached a deal with the Taliban in February 2020, which stipulated that US troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan within 14 months on the condition that the Taliban not turn the country into a terrorist base. The agreement had been widely criticized at the time for acceding to the Taliban and excluding the Afghan government. Pompeo attended the signing ceremony and took photos alongside Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is anticipated to head the next Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Trump has now attempted to absolve himself from the situation and pinned responsibility solely on President Joe Biden for the Taliban's takeover and the Afghan government's collapse.

Though Kinzinger on Sunday attacked Trump, he also placed blame on Biden, who "could've easily turned this around" once he became president.

"The Republicans are putting out talking points to make Biden look bad. The Democrats are putting out talking points to point out the past administration. In truth, they're both responsible," Kinzinger said.

"Both parties have failed the American people," he added.

Biden agreed to carry out Trump's deal and pull out of Afghanistan. This week he defended his withdrawal of US troops, despite receiving widespread criticism from both sides of the aisle amid disturbing scenes coming out of Kabul of people clamoring to leave the country and the resurgence of the Taliban.

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A New York Times reporter and former Marine who evacuated Kabul flew back to help his Afghan colleagues escape the Taliban

afghanistan us evacuation
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, enters a plane evacuating people, at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.
  • Three US newspapers led an effort to evacuate their Afghan employees out of the country.
  • One NYT journalist initially left Afghanistan but returned to help his Afghan colleagues escape.
  • A group of 128 people for the Times left the country through the help of the Qatari government.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Three US media organizations - the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal - led a global rescue effort to evacuate their Afghan employees amid the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.

A New York Times report published Thursday described this week's chaotic journey to get over 200 Afghans - journalists connected to the three papers and their families - through the Kabul airport and on a plane out of the country. The journalists reported fears for their safety under a new Taliban rule.

The newspapers sought assistance from high-level diplomats, Biden administration officials, and people on-the-ground to evacuate their colleagues.

One NYT foreign correspondent who's also a former US Marine, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, helped coordinate the effort. He was in Kabul covering the conflict and left the city with an early round of American evacuees.

But Neff soon returned to the country to aid his Afghan colleagues' escape. He flew back on a military plane and stayed in the American-occupied wing of the airport, advising Afghans when and how to flee, the Times reported.

Neff did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

After several failed attempts, a group of 128 people from the NYT successfully managed to leave Afghanistan once the Qatari government stepped in to help, the newspaper reported. Qatar has a relationship with the US and hosts the biggest US military base in the Middle East.

NYT publisher A.G. Sulzberger said the news organization was "deeply grateful" to Qatar "which has been truly invaluable in getting our Afghan colleagues and their families to safety," per the Times.

"We also thank the many U.S. government officials who took a personal interest in the plight of our colleagues and the military personnel in Kabul who helped them make their exit from the country," Sulzberger said. "We urge the international community to continue working on behalf of the many brave Afghan journalists still at risk in the country."

Thirteen people from the Washington Post were able to leave for Qatar on Tuesday, the Times reported. Seventy-six people from the Wall Street Journal also left, publisher Almar Latour announced in a staff email on Friday.

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White House communications director says Biden ‘never shies away from taking questions,’ one day after he refused to take questions

President Joe Biden walks away without taking questions after delivering remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House August 16, 2021.
  • White House communications director Kate Bedingfield defended her boss on Friday.
  • "The president never shies away from taking questions," she said.
  • Biden has refused to answer questions on Afghanistan from the White House press corps in recent days.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield on Friday defended President Joe Biden's interactions with the media after he's recently refused to answer questions about Afghanistan from the White House press corps.

"He's given a couple of speeches. He did the interview with ABC News. But the White House press corps and the American people have a lot of direct questions for him. Will he take those today?" MSNBC host Willie Geist asked Bedingfield in an interview.

"The president never shies away from taking questions," Bedingfield replied. "I'll let him make a decision if he's going to take questions this afternoon."

"He's always willing to take questions," she added.

Bedingfield's comments come just a day after Biden did not field any questions from reporters after he wrapped up remarks on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House.

Reporters, in their usual fashion, shouted out questions to Biden as he headed out of the room, yet the president did not turn back to reply.

The same scene unfolded on Monday after Biden delivered his first public address on the Afghanistan crisis following the Taliban takeover of the country on Sunday. Biden concluded his speech and left the podium without engaging with the press.

Biden's refusal to take questions come as he faces backlash over his administration's handling of the US' pullout from Afghanistan. The president sat down for an interview with ABC News on Wednesday to discuss Afghanistan, but he has not yet held a press conference on the situation.

Republicans, who have assailed the US' military withdrawal, ripped into Bedingfield's comments on Friday.

"Delusional and dishonest," Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted in response to a clip of Bedingfield.

"That's a lie. Is Joe Biden too scared to answer questions about the catastrophe that has unfolded Afghanistan? Yes. He. Is," Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina also wrote on Twitter.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the president's top spokesperson, held only one news briefing this week on Tuesday, despite typically holding them on a daily basis.

She has previously said that she advises Biden not to take impromptu questions from the media, which he often does after public appearances.

"That is not something we recommend," she told CNN's "The Axe Files" in May. "In fact, a lot of times we say 'Don't take questions,' you know, but he's going to do what he wants to do because he's the president."

Biden received criticism earlier this year for waiting longer than any of his recent predecessors to hold his first solo presidential press conference. He's mostly stuck to cable-news interviews and briefly answering questions after giving public remarks.

Biden is expected to deliver remarks about Afghanistan on Friday afternoon.

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3 senators announce they have tested positive for COVID-19

angus king
U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME) is seen in the Senate Reception room during the fifth day of the impeachment trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2021.
  • Three US senators on Thursday announced that they've tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Each of them has been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
  • The Senate is out of session this week.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Three senators, who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, announced on Thursday that they've tested positive for COVID-19.

Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, and Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado revealed their positive diagnoses in statements from their offices.

Wicker and Hickenlooper reported experiencing mild symptoms of the virus. King said that he'd been "mildly feverish."

King and Hickenlooper lauded the COVID-19 vaccine and encouraged people to get the shot if they had not already.

"While I am not feeling great, I am definitely feeling much better than I would have without the vaccine," King, 77, said in a statement.

Hickenlooper, 69, echoed the sentiment.

"I'm grateful for the vaccine (and the scientists behind it) for limiting my symptoms," he said.

The senators said they are self-isolating and following the medical advice of their doctors.

The breakthrough infections come as the Senate is out of session this week. Senators left for recess following extensive legislative debate to advance Democrats' $3.5 trillion social infrastructure package. The chamber is due to return on September 13.

Earlier this month, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina became the first fully-vaccinated senator to publicly report a breakthrough infection.

The Republican lawmaker recovered from mild symptoms and returned to the Senate after quarantining for 10 days.

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