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Somalis in Minneapolis Shocked and Saddened by Police Shooting



MINNEAPOLIS — His hiring by the Minneapolis Police Department was hailed by the mayor as “a wonderful sign.” Hundreds of Somalis attended an event at a local mall welcoming him to the force, lining up to take pictures and shake his hand.

But just 14 months after Mohamed Noor became the first Somali police officer to be stationed in his precinct, which has a large immigrant population, he is now under scrutiny for fatally shooting an Australian woman after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home.

The encounter has drawn international outrage about American police practices; the Australian prime minister on Wednesday condemned the shooting of Justine Damond as “a shocking killing.” Her loved ones, including her father, John Ruszczyk, who lives in Sydney, have said they were desperate for information about what happened. “Justine was a beacon to all of us,” he said.

On Wednesday, more details emerged. In the minutes before being shot on Saturday, Ms. Damond, whose legal name was Justine Ruszczyk, called 911 twice, according to transcripts released by the Minneapolis police.

“I can hear someone out the back and I, I’m not sure if she’s having sex or being raped,” she told the dispatcher, “but it’s been going on for a while and I think she tried to say help and it sounds distressed.”

The dispatcher said an officer was on the way. Eight minutes later, with apparently no officers yet on scene, Ms. Damond called again to reiterate her concern for the woman, asking whether the police had the wrong address.

The dispatcher assured her that officers were coming, and the call ended. Shortly thereafter, Officer Noor arrived in the alley.

Officer Noor’s hiring was seen as a bridge to a refugee community that has at times felt victimized by the police. Now, one of their own is the one in uniform accused of brutality. On Wednesday, the mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, posted a Facebook message addressed to Somali residents, seeking to assure them that they “are a valued and appreciated part of Minneapolis.”

Mahamed Yusuf was at Karmel Mall for Officer Noor’s welcome, and said that local Somalis had been heartened to have one of their own on the police force.

“We have a guy between the police and the community,” Mr. Yusuf said. Since the shooting, he said, Somalis have been “burning inside” and grasping for answers.

“He was looking so nice and humble, and he loved his job,” Mr. Yusuf, 63, said. “Everybody in the community is shocked and sad.”

As the Somali immigrant population in Minneapolis has grown, members of the community have sometimes expressed frustration with law enforcement. In 2002, after Minneapolis officers fatally shot a Somali man carrying a machete, critics accused the officers of using excessive force, claiming the man was mentally ill and did not understand English.

More recently, some Somalis here have criticized the tactics used in federal prosecutions of young men accused of trying to join overseas terrorist organizations. The strain of police shootings of black people — with a few prominent cases in the Twin Cities area — has also left some Somalis wary of law enforcement.

The Minneapolis police have worked in recent years to add Somali officers to the force and have reached out to the immigrant community. After last year’s presidential election, amid heightened concern about deportations, a Somali-speaking officer recorded a YouTube video assuring residents that the local police did not enforce immigration law.

Ms. Hodges also said that Officer Noor “won’t be treated differently than any other officer” and that the shooting had happened “under circumstances we don’t yet comprehend.”

“We cannot compound that tragedy by turning to racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia,” Ms. Hodges said. “It is unjust and ridiculous to assert that an entire community be held responsible for the actions of one person. That will not be tolerated in Minneapolis.”

Minneapolis police records show that Officer Noor has been the subject of three citizen complaints during his short career. Two of those cases remain open, and one was closed without any discipline. Details about those incidents were not released. Court records show that Mr. Noor has a son born in 2010, and that he was involved in 2015 in a custody dispute with the mother, who wanted to move out of state.
A day before the shooting, a lawsuit accusing Officer Noor and two of his colleagues of misconduct was filed in federal court. The lawsuit, filed by a woman who said the police had illegally taken her into custody for a mental health checkup in May, said Officer Noor had taken her phone from her hand “and then grabbed her right wrist and upper arm, thereby immobilizing her.”

Jordan S. Kushner, a lawyer for the woman, said Officer Noor “was a participant in what we consider a real egregious and dramatic violation of her rights.” He noted that his client had initially called the police for help that day, just as the woman Officer Noor shot on Saturday did.

Officer Noor’s lawyer did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. Officer Noor has so far declined to speak with state investigators about the shooting. No one answered the door on Wednesday at an apartment tied to him.

Large numbers of Somali refugees, fleeing violence and famine in their homeland, began arriving in Minneapolis in the 1990s, and around 30,000 are said to now live in the Twin Cities area. Members of the community have been elected to public office, worked as journalists and joined the military. But over the years, many Somalis have expressed frustration with their portrayals in the news media, saying reporters have unfairly emphasized stories about terrorist recruitment and cultural differences.

Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali community leader in Minneapolis, said that the relationship between the local police and Somalis had improved significantly in recent years and that the community celebrates when one of its members becomes an officer. He knows several Somali youths considering careers in law enforcement.

“We worked so hard to get Somali police officers,” Mr. Bihi said.

Mr. Bihi said Somalis empathized with Ms. Damond as a fellow immigrant, but resented the news media attention on Officer Noor’s heritage.

“Why in the world would he be seen as a Somali and not a Minneapolis police officer?” Mr. Bihi said. “The community feels betrayed.”

The shooting also made headlines in Somalia, where many worried it could paint a negative image of Somalis and harm the status of refugee applications, many of which have been rejected under President Trump’s travel ban.

“Many Somalis are talking about the case as though the case occurred here in Somalia,” said Abdirahman Hassan Omar, a lawyer based in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. “Because of the travel ban, this is making us worried a lot.”

The shooting, said Nadiir Shariif Maqbuul, an activist in Mogadishu, will affect the Somali communities not only in Australia and the United States, but also in Europe and elsewhere.

In Minneapolis, people who had met Officer Noor struggled to square their recollections of him with the shooting of Ms. Damond, which, so far at least, has defied explanation.

“Officer Noor was a good guy,” said Abdihakim Bashir, 35, who was shopping on Wednesday at the bustling Karmel Mall. “We were very surprised by the news. We don’t know what happened. It was an accident, and every human can make a mistake.”

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Trump fires Tillerson, names Pompeo as successor at State



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President Trump has removed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo in a move that stunned Washington with its timing.

Trump is nominating Gina Haspel, Pompeo’s current deputy, to lead the CIA.

Trump told reporters Tuesday morning that he made the decision “by myself,” signaling he did not speak with Tillerson before firing him.

“I actually got along great with Rex, but really, it was a different mindset,” Trump said from the White House.

Those comments belied the fact that Trump and Tillerson had repeatedly clashed, most famously when the secretary of State reportedly referred to Trump in private as a “moron.” The report clearly got under Trump’s skin, and the president responded by challenging Tillerson to an IQ test.

Trump tweeted the news of the staff changes shortly after Tillerson’s firing was first reported by The Washington Post.

“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” Trump tweeted.

“He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”

A White House official told The Hill that White House chief of staff John Kelly called Tillerson on Friday night to tell him that Trump had decided to let him go. The official said the call was short and not testy, and that it was not focused on policy issues or differences.

Tillerson asked and Kelly agreed that an announcement would be held back until Tillerson’s return. Tillerson returned to the United States early Tuesday morning — hours before the Post story broke.

State Department officials did not immediately respond to The Hill’s requests for comment on Tillerson’s abrupt ouster, though a State Department official released a statement that said Tillerson was unaware of the reason for his removal.

“The Secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues,” said the statement from Steve Goldstein, under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

“The Secretary did not speak to the President this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted.”

Tillerson and Trump have had a tempestuous relationship, so it was not shocking that Tillerson would be removed.

However, the timing of Tillerson’s firing was a surprise, given the diplomatic workload at the moment.

On Thursday, Trump shocked the world by accepting an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which would make him the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader. It’s possible that Tillerson’s removal was made with that meeting in mind, if Trump wanted Pompeo by his side for the historic occasion.

He’s also moving forward with a Middle East peace plan after angering the Arab world by announcing the U.S. would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

And the administration continues to deal with Russia and its entanglement in the 2016 presidential election — with critics charging that Trump has not taken a tough enough approach with the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There were differences in rhetoric between Tillerson and the White House on foreign policy, including on Monday, when Tillerson pointed the finger at Moscow over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in London. The White House earlier in the day had notably not blamed Russia for the incident, despite claims from Great Britain’s prime minister.

Late last year, speculation mounted in Washington that Tillerson would be replaced, and reports circulated that Pompeo could be his successor.

Tillerson was one of the first Cabinet secretaries to be confirmed in the Trump administration, but his brief tenure has been rocked by criticism and continuing signs of low morale at the State Department, where he has often been perceived as an absent leader.

Tillerson, a low-key Texan, never felt comfortable in Washington and did his best to work in private and avoid the media. He faced scrutiny in Washington, even from Republican lawmakers, as he has overseen a controversial redesign of the State Department that has been unpopular among officials there.

Many career diplomats have exited under his leadership, and Tillerson has reportedly clashed with White House officials on key appointments.

Pompeo, meanwhile, is viewed as one of Trump’s most trusted Cabinet members. He reportedly meets nearly daily with Trump to brief him on national security, which requires him to travel from CIA headquarters in Virginia to the White House.

Pompeo, a former Republican congressman, has taken a decidedly more hawkish stance than Tillerson on matters such as North Korea and the Iran nuclear deal.

In a statement, Pompeo said he was “deeply grateful” to Trump for allowing him to serve as CIA chief and now secretary of State. He will now need to be confirmed by the full Senate to lead the State Department.

“If confirmed, I look forward to guiding the world’s finest diplomatic corps in formulating and executing the President’s foreign policy,” Pompeo said. “In my time as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, I have worked alongside many remarkable Foreign Service officers and Department of State leaders serving here in the United States and on the very edge of freedom.”

Tillerson’s removal comes days before he was slated to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the department’s fiscal year 2019 budget request. The State Department, like other agencies, has been dealt deep cuts in the Trump administration’s funding proposals, while the departments of Defense and Homeland Security have seen their budgets increased.

The decision to replace Tillerson, a former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., throws into further uncertainty the State Department’s most senior ranks. The agency has seen an exodus of longtime career officials under Tillerson, which has been highlighted in recent months by the departures of some of the department’s most experienced diplomats.

Despite Tillerson’s rocky tenure at the State Department, he has indicated in more recent months that he planned to remain at the agency for the foreseeable future. He told CNN in an interview in January that he intended to stay on at least through 2018.

“I intend to be here for the whole year,” he said at the time.

Rebecca Savransky and Jonathan Easley contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:19 p.m.

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Adviser to Emirates With Ties to Trump Aides Is Cooperating With Special Counsel



WASHINGTON — An adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to current and former aides to President Trump is cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and gave testimony last week to a grand jury, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Mueller appears to be examining the influence of foreign money on Mr. Trump’s political activities and has asked witnesses about the possibility that the adviser, George Nader, funneled money from the Emirates to the president’s political efforts. It is illegal for foreign entities to contribute to campaigns or for Americans to knowingly accept foreign money for political races.
Mr. Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the Emirates, also attended a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles that Mr. Mueller’s investigators have examined. The meeting, convened by the crown prince, brought together a Russian investor close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump’s team during the presidential transition, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

Mr. Nader’s cooperation in the special counsel’s investigation could prompt new legal risks for the Trump administration, and Mr. Nader’s presence at the Seychelles meeting appears to connect him to the primary focus of Mr. Mueller’s investigation: examining Russian interference during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Nader represented the crown prince in the three-way conversation in the Seychelles, at a hotel overlooking in the Indian Ocean, in the days before Mr. Trump took office. At the meeting, Emirati officials believed Mr. Prince was speaking for the Trump transition team, and a Russian fund manager, Kirill Dmitriev, represented Mr. Putin, according to several people familiar with the meeting. Mr. Nader, who grew close later to several advisers in the Trump White House, had once worked as a consultant to Blackwater, a private security firm now known as Academi. Mr. Nader introduced his former employer to the Russian.
The significance of the meeting in the Seychelles has been a puzzle to American officials ever since intelligence agencies first picked up on it in the final days of the Obama administration, and the purpose of the discussion is in dispute. During congressional testimony in November, Mr. Prince denied representing the Trump transition team during the meeting and dismissed his encounter with Mr. Dmitriev as nothing more than a friendly conversation over a drink.

A lawyer for Mr. Nader did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Dmitriev has repeatedly declined to comment about the Seychelles meeting, as has Yousef al-Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador in Washington.

Mr. Dmitriev, a former Goldman Sachs banker with an M.B.A. from Harvard, was tapped by Mr. Putin in 2011 to manage an unusual state-run investment fund. Where other such funds seek to earn returns on sovereign wealth, Mr. Dmitriev’s Russian Direct Investment Fund seeks outside investments, often from foreign governments, for unglamorous infrastructure projects inside of Russia.
The Obama administration imposed sanctions on the fund as part of a raft of economic penalties after the Russian government sent military forces into Ukraine in 2014.

The United Arab Emirates, which Washington considers one of its closest Arab allies, has invested heavily in Mr. Dmitriev’s fund as part of an effort to build close relations to Russia as well. After Crown Prince Mohammed met with Mr. Putin in 2013 in Moscow on a state visit, two investment arms of the government in Abu Dhabi committed to invest $6 billion in the Russian Direct Investment Fund, eventually paying to build projects like roads, an airport and cancer treatment centers in Russia.
Mr. Dmitriev became a frequent visitor to Abu Dhabi, and Emirati officials came to see him as a key conduit to the Russian government. In a 2015 email, the Emirati ambassador to Moscow at the time described Mr. Dmitriev as a “messenger” to get information directly to Mr. Putin. The email was among a large number hacked from the account of the ambassador to Washington and published online. The now former ambassador to Moscow, Omar Saif Ghobash, did not respond to an email about the leak.

Mr. Nader was first served with search warrants and a grand jury subpoena on Jan. 17, shortly after landing at Washington Dulles International Airport, according to two people familiar with the episode. He had intended to travel on to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida estate, to celebrate the president’s first year in office, but the F.B.I. had other plans, questioning him for more than two hours and seizing his electronics.

Since then, Mr. Nader has been questioned numerous times about meetings in New York during the transition, the Seychelles meeting and meetings in the White House with two of Mr. Trump’s senior advisers, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, who has since left the administration.

The meeting in the Seychelles also took place against the backdrop of a larger pattern of secretive contacts between the Trump team and both the Russians and the Emiratis. In the weeks after the 2016 presidential election, Crown Prince Mohammed aroused the suspicions of American national security officials when they learned that he had breached protocol by visiting Trump Tower in Manhattan without notifying the Obama administration of his visit to the United States.

Mr. Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a senior transition adviser, met at Trump Tower with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington at the time, and discussed setting up a back channel to communicate with Moscow during the transition — circumventing American diplomatic channels normally used during a presidential transition. Mr. Kushner met a few days later with a Russian banker close to Putin, Sergey N. Gorkov — whose bank was also under sanctions — in what Mr. Kushner has said was an attempt to establish a direct line of communication to Mr. Putin during the transition.

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Ilhan Omar: No debate on ‘whether Trump is a racist’ | UpFront



Hers is a remarkable journey: from a refugee camp in Kenya to a state legislature in the United States. In 2016, Ilhan Omar became the first elected Somali-American Muslim lawmaker in the US, the same night that Donald Trump was elected president.

When asked about Trump’s role in the rise of anti-Muslim, far right, white nationalist hate groups in the country, Omar says she would come very short of holding him “exclusively responsible”.

“I think when you … demonise and dehumanise, it is easy for people to commit acts of violence against those individuals because they no longer see them as a person, as someone who has feelings, who’s worthy of respect,” says Omar.

“We are moving away from this idea that we are supposed to be a welcoming nation.”

In this special interview, we speak with Minnesota State Representative Ilhan Omar about Trump and the rise of Islamophobia in the US.

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