Rantt Rundown: What Really Happened In Niger?

Day 477 of the Trump presidency

From left: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson; Sgt. La David T. Johnson; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. (AP)

Several months after the October 4, 2017 ambush of US troops in Niger, and many questions remain unanswered. This week, the Pentagon released a report on their investigation into the matter. CNN reported:

A series of failures and deficiencies, including a lack of adequate training, contributed to the ambush last October that resulted in a Green Beret-led team being outgunned and overrun by more than 100 ISIS fighters in Niger, leaving four US soldiers dead.

Additionally, the investigation found that prior to starting out on the ill-fated patrol, two junior officers, including an Army captain who remained at the base in Niger and the team leader, falsified a document to get approval for a mission to kill or capture a local ISIS leader. That mission was never approved by the proper chain of command, according to the summary. A much lower risk mission was instead submitted and approved. However, the team was unable to locate the ISIS leader during their unauthorized mission.

Notably, the details relating to Sergeant La David Johnson conflict with what has been widely reported.

U.S. troops were first deployed to Niger in 2013 by President Obama to analyze the growing threat of Islamic extremism in Northern Africa. There are about 800 U.S. troops deployed to Niger now gathering intelligence on ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliated groups sprouting up in the region.

When it comes to this ambush, the Department of Defense at the time stated that there were 12 U.S. troops who were ambushed by 40–50 ISIS-affiliated insurgents while on a routine patrol in Niger. But The New York Times spoke to both U.S. and Nigerien officials and got a clearer picture from both accounts. They reported that there were over 100 insurgents on motorcycles that ambushed a group of 50 Nigerien and U.S. troops as they were leaving a village.

The U.S.-Nigerien troops were driving pick-up trucks when they were attacked by the armed insurgents. 4 Americans were killed, including two Green Berets, and two Americans were wounded. Six Nigeriens were wounded. The four Americans killed were Staff Sergeant Bryan C. Black, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sergeant Dustin M. Wright, and Sergeant La David Johnson.

There was a firefight that took place for a few hours and then French helicopters, CNN reports the evacuators were private contractors, finally arrived for rescue…but Sergeant La David Johnson was left behind.

At the time it was reported that it took 48 hours to recover his body, which was a mile away from the ambush site. Sergeant La David Johnson wasn’t able to have an open casket funeral, which suggests that his body may have been mutilated. There were some reports indicating that he might’ve still been alive when he was left behind due to his locator being active. The New York Times report suggested that Sergeant La David Johnson’s truck got stuck in the mud which is what led him to be separated from the rest of the troops, but this has yet to be verified by U.S. officials.

Later reports indicated that Sergeant La David Johnson was captured, bound, and executed.

But this week’s Pentagon report claims “Johnson’s hands were not bound and he was not executed but was killed in action while actively engaging the enemy.”

This appears to be a failure at every level. If the Trump administration wasn’t consumed in a whirlpool of counterintelligence and corruption investigations as well as hush money and ethics scandals, this would get more attention.

So…what really happened?

We may never know. One thing is for sure: the families of the fallen deserve answers.

Meanwhile…

  • President Trump backed off a major campaign promise by capitulating to drug companies with his latest plan to lower drug prices. Trump will not be going forward with his proposed plan of Medicare negotiating drug prices. The announcement sent Pharma stocks soaring. Interesting timing, given the recent revelations that the pharmaceutical company Novartis paid Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen $1.2 million after Cohen approached them offering access to the incoming Trump administration. Speaking of Cohen…
  • AT&T’s CEO said “There is no other way to say it – AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake.” This came after it was revealed AT&T paid Michael Cohen $600,000 over the course of 2017 to get advice on their pending Time Warner merger, which then-candidate Trump opposed. And in a new development on this front, Trump’s free wheeling lawyer Rudy Giuliani told The Huffington Post:

“Whatever lobbying was done didn’t reach the president,” Giuliani said, offering as proof the fact that AT&T’s proposed merger with Time-Warner has not gone through. “He did drain the swamp … The president denied the merger. They didn’t get the result they wanted.”

  • It feels like it happened a month ago, but the four women who accused New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) of intense domestic abuse — both physically and emotionally—still reverberated throughout the week. Today, there was an interesting development:

A lawyer who says he once represented two women who claimed that the former New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, had “sexually victimized” them several years ago, asserted on Friday that he discussed their claims in 2013 with an unlikely person: Michael D. Cohen, Donald J. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer.

The lawyer for the women, Peter J. Gleason, offered his surprising account in a letter submitted to Kimba M. Wood, the Manhattan federal judge who is overseeing an ongoing investigation into Mr. Cohen. In the letter, Mr. Gleason asked Judge Wood for an order to protect any records that Mr. Cohen might have concerning their discussion of the women — a step he felt was needed after federal agents seized boxes of documents in a series of raids on Mr. Cohen’s office, apartment and hotel room last month.

This was around the time that Schneiderman was investigating Trump University. If anything, it explains this tweet.

The FBI warned four years ago that a foundation controlled by the Russian oligarch who allegedly reimbursed Donald Trump’s personal lawyer might have been acting on behalf of Russia’s intelligence services.

FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lucia Ziobro wrote an unusual column in the Boston BusinessJournal in April of 2014 to warn that a foundation controlled by Russian energy baron Viktor Vekselberg might be part of a Moscow spying campaign that sought to siphon up American science and technology.

“The foundation may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research, development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial applications,” Ziobro wrote. “This analysis is supported by reports coming out of Russia itself.”

For more on Vekselberg and Cohen, read this.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has questioned several witnesses about millions of dollars in donations to President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee last year, including questions about donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, sources with direct knowledge told ABC News.

Those interviewed included longtime Trump friend and confidant Thomas Barrack, who oversaw the fundraising effort, as well as individuals familiar with the massive inaugural fund, according to sources with direct knowledge.

  • Democratic lawmakers are considering new legislation to protect Mueller’s investigation even if the investigators are fired:

The discussions “involve assuring the evidence is preserved and reports are done if the special counsel is fired or other political interference is undertaken by the president,” Blumenthal told NBC News.

  • After it was reported that White House staffer Kelly Sadler told colleagues that Senator John McCain’s opposition to CIA Director Nominee doesn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway,” Meghan McCain wondered why she still has a job. That’s a great question for Chief of Staff John Kelly.
  • Today, John Kelly made another bigoted comment. Seemingly misunderstanding that he was describing many of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, Kelly said:

Rundown // Donald Trump / Government / Journalism