News Brief: Sanctions On Turkey, Fort Worth Shooting, Presidential Debate
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
U.S. forces in Syria complicated any effort by Turkey to invade for years. Now that U.S. forces are going, U.S. sanctions are not immediately having the same effect.
NOEL KING, HOST:
That's right. President Trump announced the sanctions to stop this offensive that he effectively cleared the way for. And then yesterday the White House sent deeply mixed messages. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters that the president wants Turkey's invasion to stop. And he said he, Pence, is being sent on a mission with the national security adviser.
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VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The president has directed me and Robert O'Brien to lead a delegation to Turkey in the immediate future to begin discussions and negotiations to bring the bloodshed to an end.
KING: But just a few hours before he said that, the president was on Twitter. And he seemed to dismiss this whole conflict. He said it was, quote, "7,000 miles away" from the U.S. And as for the Kurds, the U.S. allies who are now in deep trouble, the president said he didn't care if they got help from, quote, "Russia, China or Napoleon Bonaparte."
INSKEEP: So what does all this look like on the ground? NPR's Peter Kenyon has been covering events from the Turkish side of the Turkish-Syrian border. Hi there, Peter.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: What are you seeing and hearing from people?
KENYON: Well, we've been going around near the border and finding a lot of people not especially interested in taking any political positions. Overall in the country, the operation has (inaudible). But people down here are packing, leaving. They just hope the violence stops soon. In the border town of Nusaybin, I stopped in a small grocery store - one of the few doors that was actually open. A block away, there was a funeral service for a man killed in a mortar attack. And the clerk said he was open because of the demand. Those who hadn't left were stocking up. Here's some of what he said.
UNIDENTIFIED GROCERY STORE CLERK: (Foreign language spoken).
KENYON: Now he's saying, yes, they're bringing bags, taking away whatever they can - meat, chicken, vegetables, other supplies, water certainly. And that tracks with what I've been hearing from families. The other thing they worry about is school. They've been closed because of the operation. So even as they leave, they're telling us - well, if the school's open, we might consider coming back for our kids.
INSKEEP: Well, I'm trying to understand why it is that people on the Turkish side are affected by this Turkish incursion into Syria. Is it just fear that gunfire will cast over? Are there refugees coming over? What's happening that affects those towns?
KENYON: Well, what's coming over are mortars and rockets on a daily basis. And stores and shops and homes are getting hit. Eighteen people are dead, dozens wounded. Obviously, most of the firepower is going the other way into Syria, but people on the border here are being affected as well.
And meanwhile, the Turkish and Turkish-backed troops are still moving ahead. They've announced a new target in Manbij, an area that was seized from ISIS by YPG Kurdish fighters back when they were supported by the U.S. And there's artillery shelling going on around towns like Ras al-Ayn and elsewhere.
INSKEEP: Well, this is a significant point then, Peter Kenyon, because the United States has said, Turkey, we need you to stop this, and we're, in fact, imposing sanctions. And members of Congress are talking about even stricter sanctions if they need to vote on them. Is that having any measurable effect that you can see on the Turkish incursion?
KENYON: No effect whatsoever thus far - that's my conclusion. Turkey's rejecting any notion that economic pressure is going to stop this offensive. They say it's a national security matter. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan writes in The Washington Post, it was the inaction of the international community that prompted this in the first place. And he's also threatening to open the gates and allow refugees to flood into Europe if this opposition continues.
INSKEEP: Peter, thanks so much.
KENYON: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon.
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INSKEEP: Video shows how police killed a black woman as she played a video game with her 8-year-old nephew.
KING: Her name was Atatiana Jefferson, and she was shot through the window of her house in Fort Worth, Texas.
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BETSY PRICE: On behalf of the entire city of Fort Worth, I'm sorry.
KING: That is Betsy Price. She's the mayor of Fort Worth.
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PRICE: To Atatiana's family, it's unacceptable. There is nothing that could justify what happened on Saturday morning - nothing.
KING: Last night, the officer who fired the shot was arrested, and he was charged with Jefferson's murder. He is since out on bail.
INSKEEP: Christopher Connelly is a reporter with our member station KERA in Fort Worth, Texas. And he's cover - in the Fort Worth area, I should say - Dallas-Fort Worth. He's covering this story. Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER CONNELLY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: This happened over a holiday weekend. It may be new to some people. But there's a lot of evidence out there, including that police video, the bodycam. So what happened as best you can tell?
CONNELLY: Right. So it started as a welfare call. A neighbor had called the non-emergency police number with concerns that Jefferson's front door had been open for hours late into the night. Jefferson was up late playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew. And so around 2:30 in the morning, officers showed up. And you can see in police video that they were working their way around the house, peering through windows, checking it out with flashlights.
And they go around through a gate into the backyard. And that caught the attention of Jefferson and her nephew, who went to the back bedroom window. When the officer, Aaron Dean, saw her, he raised his flashlight and his gun. He shouted for her to put her hands up, and he shot her through the glass. He did not identify himself as a police officer. And when he shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson, her nephew was in the room with her.
INSKEEP: It's notable what you can and can't see in this video. You can see at the beginning that there are lights on in the front of the house, that the door is open, that it's kind of messy in there but nothing disastrous going on. Then you see the officer work around to the side. You don't see what it is the officer can see inside. What, if anything, are police saying about what that officer might have found to be a threat, if anything, in there?
CONNELLY: They really haven't actually said what it was that he found to be a threat in there. Early on, they did release photos of a gun found in the residence. But later yesterday, when the mayor addressed the city, she said, you know, that gun was irrelevant. And it was clear that officials felt like, you know, the images of the gun just shouldn't have been released - that that sort of tainted the image of what happened.
INSKEEP: The officer is Aaron Dean. We mentioned that he's been charged. Is he free at the moment?
CONNELLY: Yeah. He was released overnight on a $200,000 bond.
INSKEEP: And how is the family responding to all of this?
CONNELLY: Well, they - their lawyer, Lee Merritt, put out a statement on Twitter. He said, quote, "the family of Atatiana Jefferson is relieved that Aaron Dean has been arrested and charged with murder." He says that they want "to see this through to a vigorous prosecution and appropriate sentencing" and that, quote, "the City of Fort Worth has much work to do to reform a brutal culture of policing." That's his quote.
INSKEEP: Is this the only thing people are able to talk about in Fort Worth at the moment?
CONNELLY: It is the story, absolutely.
INSKEEP: OK. Well, thanks very much for the update. I really appreciate it.
CONNELLY: I'm happy to be here.
INSKEEP: That's Christopher Connelly of KERA in Fort Worth, Texas.
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INSKEEP: Democratic presidential candidates hold a debate tonight.
KING: Yeah, that's right. And there's a lot to watch out for depending on which of the 12 candidates you're interested in. Bernie Sanders is campaigning again after he had a heart attack. Elizabeth Warren is leading now in some 2020 polls. And then, of course, there's the impeachment inquiry into President Trump's effort to find political dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine. One big question is whether any of the candidates will ask Biden questions about Ukraine.
INSKEEP: Let's ask NPR's Scott Detrow what he's seeing as he prepares to head off for the debate. Hi there, Scott.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.
INSKEEP: So where does Joe Biden stand?
DETROW: You know, he's been the front-runner since he entered the race. But he's had a really challenging stretch, and he looks more vulnerable than he has before. As you mentioned, Elizabeth Warren has edged ahead of him in several polls. Biden - relatively holding steady, but Warren going up and up and ahead of him nationally and in several key states.
Several candidates raised more money than Biden did last quarter. And things like that matter when you are framing yourself - a big part of Biden's argument is that he is the candidate who can best beat Trump. So even though the central attack that Trump keeps making against Biden is false, he's attacking Biden every day. So a key question tonight is how Biden reacts when he's asked about his son Hunter Biden's business dealings, and he's been pretty defensive about that when it's come up before.
INSKEEP: Although he's also been ferocious in a way - and he has said it is time for an impeachment of the president.
DETROW: Yes. He shifted gears on that in the last week or so, and that was pretty notable. Of course, it's also in line with what most Democrats want to see at this point in time. There's been a remarkable shift in public opinion on the question of impeachment that Biden has gone with as well.
I think he really is clearly positioning himself to be able to talk about this tonight. The Biden campaign released a big ethics plan yesterday. It's pretty sweeping, touches everything from campaign finance to requiring federal candidates to release tax returns to putting more political insulation between the Department of Justice and the White House. And Hunter Biden will be giving his first on-camera interview later today ahead of this debate, and he resigned from a Chinese company's board over the weekend.
INSKEEP: Well, now we don't want to pay too much attention to polls this early, Scott Detrow. But people do pay some attention. And it's fair to assume that the candidates pay attention to who is ahead of them on the scoreboard, so to speak. How does it affect the dynamics that Elizabeth Warren is now the person who, in some surveys, is leading?
DETROW: That's right. And you're absolutely right, though I do think in this election polls matter a little bit more than they did before. First of all, they helped determine who's on the stage tonight...
DETROW: ...And there's a dozen people on the stage tonight. A lot of people qualified. And so many Democrats are so focused on finding someone who could beat Trump that the polls do play a role in the narrative. But Elizabeth Warren has inched up and up and up and is now ahead of Joe Biden in a lot of national polls. When Joe Biden was leading in the polls, we saw what that got him. That got him several hours' worth of hard questions from moderators and candidates trying to get some attention, to try and get some momentum by going after him.
Elizabeth Warren really has not taken much, if any, criticism from her opponents. So I'm curious tonight: do other candidates press her on the fact that she really has not laid out a detailed health care plan like she's laid out so many other plans? Do they question the things about her, her track record that you've started to see from Republican attacks? And how does Warren respond to those attacks?
INSKEEP: Is this a moment when some of the other candidates who are not on top need to get aggressive?
DETROW: I think so. I think every time that they're on television and millions of people are watching is a moment. But I think the closer and closer we get to Iowa, the more and more pressure they're feeling. I would watch Pete Buttigieg especially. He's really been positioning himself in Iowa and trying to break through again.
INSKEEP: Scott, thanks for your insights.
DETROW: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Scott Detrow.
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