For the first time in ages, I’m not finding a lot of political news breaking news this morning. The Hong Kong protests may be approaching a crisis, and Trump isn’t helping. Other than that, the Jeffrey Epstein story is dominating the news along with the shooting of police officers in Philadelphia.
Donald Trump’s top aides are urging him to back Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, but the president isn’t interested, multiple people familiar with the administration’s internal debates say.
In recent days, national security adviser John Bolton, China hands at both the National Security Council and the State Department, and several economic advisers have pushed for a more assertive posture on the Hong Kong demonstrations, which have paralyzed the former British colony and roiled markets.
They are finding little traction with a president focused more narrowly on trade negotiations with Xi Jinping — and worried that criticizing the Chinese leader’s efforts to stamp out dissent in Hong Kong will scuttle the possibility of inking a deal this winter.
As the protests have intensified over the past month, the president has remained determined to keep China’s human rights abuses from complicating his trade negotiations, going so far as to make a unilateral concession to Xi in the run-up to the G-20 Summit in June, according to three people briefed on the conversation. Aspects of the conversation were first reported by the Financial Times.
But after the initial publication of this report, the president appeared to reverse himself, issuing the latest in a series of contradictory remarks on the issue on Wednesday evening — this time demanding that Xi “deal humanely with Hong Kong.”
Raise your hand if you believe Trump cares about human rights.
A crackdown could be coming.
SHENZHEN, China/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hundreds of China’s People’s Armed Police conducted exercises at a sports stadium in Shenzhen on Thursday, as the U.S. State Department expressed concern that they could be deployed across the border in Hong Kong to break up protests wracking the city.
But Western and Asian diplomats in Hong Kong said Beijing has little appetite for rolling the PAP or the People’s Liberation Army onto Hong Kong’s streets.
Men in fatigues could be seen in a stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre, and shouts and whistles could be heard by a Reuters journalist on Thursday morning.
Later in the day, police carried out exercises in which they divided into two groups, one wearing black t-shirts similar to those worn by some protesters in Hong Kong.
A bit more:
Ten weeks of increasingly violent confrontations between police and protesters have plunged the city into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
The protests represent one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
On Wednesday the U.S. State Department said it was deeply concerned about reports that Chinese police forces were gathering near the border with Hong Kong and urged the city’s government to respect freedom of speech.
In Shenzhen, paramilitary police marched in and out of the stadium near a retail complex where shoppers milled about.
The stadium parking lot was filled with more than 100 dark-painted paramilitary vehicles, including troop trucks, armored personnel carriers, buses and jeeps. At least three were armored front-end loaders, and two vehicles carried water cannons.
I haven’t been following this story closely, but it’s certainly concerning. I’ll be paying more attention going forward.
This news just broke. The New York Times:Israel Denies Entry to Omar and Tlaib After Trump’s Call to Block Them.
Mr. Trump’s intervention was an extraordinary step to influence an allied nation and punish his political opponents at home.
The two congresswomen, Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, both freshmen, are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Both are outspoken adversaries of Mr. Trump and have been vocal in their support of the Palestinians and the boycott-Israel movement.
The president has targeted them in speeches and Twitter postings that his critics have called racist and xenophobic.
As usual, the NYT can’t bring itself to state the truth–that Trump is in fact racist and xenophobic.
The Washington Post has new information on the Jeffrey Epstein autopsy: Autopsy finds broken bones in Jeffrey Epstein’s neck, deepening questions around his death.
An autopsy found that financier Jeffrey Epstein suffered multiple breaks in his neck bones, according to two people familiar with the findings, deepening the mystery about the circumstances around his death.
Among the bones broken in Epstein’s neck was the hyoid bone, which in men is near the Adam’s apple. Such breaks can occur in those who hang themselves, particularly if they are older, according to forensics experts and studies on the subject. But they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation, the experts said….
The office of New York City’s chief medical examiner, Barbara Sampson, completed an autopsy of Epstein’s body Sunday. But Sampson listed the cause of his death as pending….
Asked about the neck injuries, Sampson said in a statement that no single factor in an autopsy can alone provide a conclusive answer about what happened.
“In all forensic investigations, all information must be synthesized to determine the cause and manner of death. Everything must be consistent; no single finding can be evaluated in a vacuum.”
The details add to the bizarre circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death, which have launched a wave of questions and conspiracy theories about how he could have died in federal custody. Even President Trump has egged on speculation, without evidence, that Epstein — whose alleged victims say they were pushed to have sex with his powerful and celebrity friends — might have been killed to keep him from spilling the secrets of others.
It’s also odd that guards didn’t check on Epstein for hours before he died and that supposedly both guards fell asleep for three hours and the falsified records.
According to The New York Post, Epstein was upbeat the last time he spoke to his attorneys.
Jeffrey Epstein was confident he could fight the child sex trafficking charges against him and was in “great spirits” just hours before his jailhouse death on Saturday morning — even telling one of his lawyers, “I’ll see you Sunday,” The Post has learned.
The convicted pedophile also told his lawyers that the neck injuries he suffered in an earlier incident at the Metropolitan Correctional Center were inflicted by his hulking, ex-cop cellmate, which led the lawyers to request that he be taken off a suicide watch, according to a source familiar with Epstein’s case.
Epstein’s optimism behind bars — expressed during daily visits with his lawyers that lasted up to 12 hours each — was so great that it struck some of those around him as “delusional,” the source said.
“He thought he was going to win the double-jeopardy motion” that his defense lawyers were planning to file in connection with his 2008 Florida prostitution conviction, the source said.
More Epstein stories to check out:
New York Magazine: Jeffrey Epstein’s Bodyguard on His Former Boss’s Lifestyle, Cruelty, Suicide.
The standoff in Philadelphia is over. CBS News: Philadelphia suspected gunman in custody after hourslong standoff and six officers shot.
A suspect is in custody in Philadelphia after an hourslong standoff and shootout that left six officers shot and another injured in a related vehicle crash, authorities said. Two officers and three other people who had been trapped in the building with the shooter were freed after several hours.
CBS Philadelphia says the suspect’s lawyer told the station the suspect is 36-year-old Maurice Hill, though police haven’t released his name. The alleged gunman surrendered shortly after midnight. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross told reporters it was teargas that got the suspect to give up.
Attorney Shaka Johnson said Hill called him to the scene of the standoff while he was barricaded inside. “Maurice called me in a panic, obviously,” Johnson told CBS Philadelphia. “He did not want this to end violently and he really was sort of taking an opportunity to speak his peace. I told him, ‘You gotta surrender, man.”‘
Hill wasn’t injured in the shootout, according to Johnson, who added that Hill was brought to a hospital to be checked out, then released with officers surrounding him overnight. Charges haven’t been announced.
CBS News has learned Hill has a long criminal history.
Police had initially responded around 5 p.m. on a narcotics warrant and things “went awry almost immediately,” Ross said.
More background at the link above.
I’ll end with a feel-good immigration story from Buzzfeed News: A Woman Tweeted A Picture Of A Man Who Had Shown Her Kindness As A Child Refugee. Within 36 Hours They Were Reunited.
A former child refugee has been reunited with a man who bought her a bike when she was 5 years old, thanks to a Twitter appeal to find him that went viral.
Mevan Babakar lived in a refugee camp near Zwolle in the Netherlands with her parents in the 1990s. She is currently taking a sabbatical from her job at a fact-checking organization in London to retrace the journey her family took after fleeing Iraq during the Gulf War.
On Monday she tweeted a picture of the man who worked at the refugee camp, asking for people’s help in identifying him. She wrote that when he gave her a bike, “My five-year-old heart exploded with joy. I just want to know his name. Help?”
The tweet was retweeted thousands of times, and people also got in touch with Babakar, 29, to say the man and his wife had helped them, too. Within 24 hours, not only had the man been found, but he was close enough for Babakar to meet him in person that day.
They were reunited in Germany, where the man, Egbert, lives. Babakar said meeting Egbert “felt like I’d been transported back in time. I felt safe, like I’d seen a family member I hadn’t seen in a long time.”
“It was hugely surreal and kind of overwhelming, a lot of emotions at once,” she told BuzzFeed News from the phone in the Netherlands.
Egbert remembered Babakar and her mother from all those years ago, and the three of them plan to stay in touch and meet up in the future. “My mum is very excited to meet him,” Babakar said, adding that Egbert had told a local journalist that if there was anyone he could have seen again from his time working at the refugee camp, “it would have been Mevan and her mother.”
What stories have you been following?