President Trump offered a gold-star father $25,000 in a condolence call and and said he would establish an online fundraiser for the family, but never followed through, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. Chris Baldridge, the father of the late Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, 22, said the offer came after he told the president about his financial difficulties while his ex-wife, who is listed as their son’s beneficiary, is expected to receive the Pentagon’s $100,000 death gratuity. Despite Trump’s promises, Baldridge only received a condolence letter in the mail. “I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest,” he said. “I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, ‘Damn, no check.’ Just a letter saying ‘I’m sorry.’” Baldridge also said the president told him, “No other president has ever done something like this. I’m going to do it.” In a statement, following the Post’s report, the White House said: “The check has been sent. It’s disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media’s biased agenda.”
The White House’s National Security Council drafted a sympathy statement for President Trump to make after four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger earlier this month, but the president never issued the statement, Politico reported Wednesday. Trump currently faces criticism for his two-week silence on the ambush and the insensitive comments he allegedly made to a gold-star widow. “Melania and I are heartbroken at the news that three U.S. service members were killed in Niger on October 4 while providing guidance and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terror operations,” the initial, unreleased statement read. “We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these brave American soldiers and patriots. They will remain in our thoughts and prayers.” It is unclear why the initial statement never saw the light of day.
Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) health is reportedly in question as he returned to the Senate this week after an extended absence due to urological issues. Politico described Cochran on Wednesday as “frail” and “disoriented,” reporting that the 79-year-old veteran lawmaker “needed a staffer to remind him where the Senate chamber is located.” But Cochran, the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, insisted he is not retiring.
Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore claims that professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem is against the law. In an interview with TIME, published Wednesday, the far-right Republican argued that athletes protesting police brutality violate a section of the U.S. code on conduct while the national anthem is playing. “It’s against the law, you know that?” the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice. “It was a act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That’s the law.” He added: “If they didn’t have it in there, it would just be tradition. But this is law. If we disobey this, what else are we going to disobey?” The candidate’s comments came without any acknowledgement of his own history with the law: Moore was suspended in 2016 for the remainder of his term after ordering Alabama judges to not enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling—the law of the land—on same-sex marriage.
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The White House on Wednesday suggested on that chief of staff John Kelly did not know that the president was going to invoke the memory of Kelly’s late son, a Marine who was killed in Afghanistan, to criticize Trump’s predecessor. “I’m not sure if [Kelly] knew of that specific comment, but they had certainly spoken about it,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. Trump claimed on Tuesday that President Barack Obama had not called Kelly, a retired Marine general, after his son was killed in 2010. Trump invoked the memory of Second Lt. Robert Kelly in claiming that Obama, like other past presidents, had not called the families of deceased service-members. Kelly, Huckabee Sanders continued, “is disgusted by the way this has been politicized.” Asked whether it was Trump himself who politicized it, she added, “He was responding to a question and stating a fact.”
The mother of a soldier killed in Niger this month confirmed Florida Rep. Frederica S. Wilson’s claim that President Trump told her family that her son “must have known what he signed up for,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday. “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” said Cowanda Jones-Johnson, the mother of Sgt. La David T. Johnson. Wilson told MSNBC that Johnson’s widow “was crying the whole time, and when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part.” Jones-Johnson told The Washington Post that Wilson’s account of the call was accurate.
Greg Pence, an older brother of Vice President Mike Pence, filed a tax document on Monday to form the Greg Pence for Congress Committee, indicating his plans to run for the eastern Indiana congressional seat his brother held for 12 years, AP reported Wednesday. Greg used to run the family’s chain of Tobacco Road convenience stores, which went bankrupt in 2004 under his leadership.
Quebec’s National Assembly on Wednesday passed a new law prohibiting Muslim women from wearing niqabs or burqas while using public services, CBC News reported. The religious neutrality legislation bans public workers and those receiving government services from wearing a religious face covering. The bill also provides for the possibility of some religious accommodation. Earlier this week, Quebec’s Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said that the law is necessary for “communication reasons, identification reasons and security reasons.” “This is a bill about le vivre ensemble [living together in harmony], it's a bill about guidelines and clearly establishes neutrality of the state,” she said.
McKayla Maroney, an Olympic gold medalist, accused former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexually abusing her starting when she was 13-years old, ESPN reported Wednesday. Nassar is already facing 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which could lead to a life sentence in prison if he is convicted. The now 21-year old gymnast tweeted that Nassar “molested” her at age 13. When she was 15 she said that he gave her a sleeping pill on a flight to Tokyo and she later woke up alone in his hotel room. “Dr. Nassar told me that I was receiving ‘medically necessary treatment that he had been performing on patients for over 30 years,’” she wrote. “It started when I was 13 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn’t end until I left the sport. It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was ‘treated.’”