The U.S. at a glance ...
KIA: Sgt. Johnson
Desperate for drinking water
New York City
Trump campaign subpoenaed: Lawyers representing a former Apprentice contestant who accused President Trump of sexual harassment have subpoenaed Trump’s campaign for all documents relating to the various groping allegations against him, BuzzFeed.com reported this week— setting up a potential legal showdown between the sitting president and his multiple female accusers. Summer Zervos accused Trump during the 2016 campaign of kissing her on two separate occasions and groping her breast. She is suing him for defamation after he labeled her accusation “total fiction.” Zervos’ lawyers have asked that Trump’s campaign not only provide all communications with or about the Apprentice contestant, but also “all documents concerning any women who asserted that Donald J. Trump touched [them] inappropriately”—a total of 17 women. Trump called the subpoena “disgraceful” and “totally fake news”; his lawyers have sought to have the suit dismissed or delayed until he is out of office.
New York City
NFL backs players: The NFL will continue allowing players to kneel during the national anthem at games, commissioner Roger Goodell announced this week after a meeting with team owners, despite an ongoing barrage of Twitter criticism from President Trump. NFL owners came to their decision after gathering at the organization’s Manhattan headquarters for a daylong meeting, during which they spoke with several players about how teams can show support for players who want to protest social issues. Goodell had indicated last week in a memo that he would prefer all players to stand during the national anthem, following threats by Trump to cut the NFL’s tax breaks. The owners reportedly also discussed how to respond to a legal grievance filed under the league’s collective bargaining agreement by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the kneeling movement last season to protest police brutality. Kaepernick has accused all 32 teams of colluding to keep him out of the league for that protest.
Trump defends Niger silence: President Trump came under intense criticism this week for taking 12 days to pay tribute to the four Green Berets killed in an ambush in Niger in early October, and he provoked a furious backlash when he falsely claimed that Barack Obama and other past presidents never or rarely called the families of soldiers killed in action. The four soldiers were gunned down by Islamic extremists at the border of Niger and Mali on Oct. 4. In the days after the deadly ambush, Trump made no public statement and did not contact the slain soldiers’ families—instead tweeting attacks on the “fake news” media and playing golf. Amid growing questions about his silence, Trump made calls to the soldiers’ families this week, but was accused by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), who said she heard the conversation on speakerphone, of telling Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s pregnant widow that her late husband “knew what he was signing up for.” Trump denied Wilson’s account over Twitter, claiming he had “proof” it was “totally fabricated.” But Johnson’s mother, who heard the call, said “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”
Former aides to both Obama and George W. Bush angrily rejected Trump’s suggestion that neither president contacted the relatives of soldiers killed in action during their presidencies. “That’s a f---ing lie,” tweeted one former Obama staffer, while another aide said that both presidents communicated with family members through calls, letters, visits, and meetings. Pressed on his comments, Trump invoked the son of his chief of staff, John Kelly, saying Obama didn’t call him after Marine 1st Lt. Robert Kelly was killed by a land mine in Afghanistan in 2010. Kelly, who never discusses his son’s death in public, was among the Gold Star families honored at a 2011 White House breakfast.
Fort Bragg, N.C.
Bergdahl awaits sentencing: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy this week, setting up a dramatic sentencing hearing that is expected to feature testimony about two U.S. comrades who were seriously injured while trying to locate the missing soldier. Bergdahl, now 31, sparked a huge military manhunt in Afghanistan when he abandoned his military outpost in 2009. He said he planned to head to a larger U.S. base to report leadership problems in his unit, but got lost on the way. He was captured by the Taliban and held for five years before being freed in a prisoner swap negotiated by the Obama administration. Bergdahl said he chose to plead guilty to the charges, one of which carries a potential life sentence, because he doubted he could get a fair trial after President Trump labeled him a “no-good traitor” who should “have been executed.” The sentencing hearing is set to begin next week.
Dorado, Puerto Rico
Water worries: Desperate Puerto Ricans have resorted to drinking potentially contaminated water from toxic Superfund sites as the island struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria. Almost a full month after the storm pummeled the U.S. territory, food remains scarce and more than 1.2 million people are without potable water. “If I don’t drink this water I’m going to die, so I might as well drink this water,” said Dorado resident Juan Carlos Oquendo, as he filled jugs from a well potentially contaminated with industrial chemicals. Nearly 85 percent of Puerto Ricans still lack electricity, and most are without cell service. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency blamed the delays in disaster relief on Puerto Rico’s squabbling politicians. As the official death toll rose to 48 people, President Trump tweeted that federal disaster relief officials can’t stay in the U.S. territory “forever!”—before reversing himself under intense criticism.
Getty, Newscom, AP, Arelis R. Hernandez/The Washington Post ■