No press briefing by the Pentagon is expected on Friday. But there may be tweets.
The Pentagon press secretary announced Friday that U.S. forces launched an airstrike against Islamic militants in Iraq, using just 132 characters and giving Twitter the news of the United States’ reengagement in that country first.
It’s a momentous tweet, and one that shows an administration that is increasingly trying to get ahead of its own major national security announcements through social media. When The New York Times reported that U.S. forces had carried out airstrikes on at least two targets of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon went first to Twitter to deny it, several hours before President Obama gave an official statement laying out his plans.
On Twitter, where people spread information faster than the fastest newswire, the White House is just another user. That much became clear in 2011, when news of the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces broke on the social-media platform before the Obama administration could announce it.
The White House at that time had suggested something big was coming when its communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, tweeted that Obama would soon address the nation. Sohaib Athar unknowingly beat them to it when he began live-tweeting the special forces raid in the city of Abbottabad, where he lived. Minutes before the scheduled address, Keith Urbahn, a former chief of staff under Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted, “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.” The news spread rapidly from there, and within half an hour, the media was reporting on bin Laden’s death.
The Pentagon released an official statement Friday shortly after its tweet, describing the airstrike. Two combat jets struck artillery Friday morning that U.S. officials say ISIS was using to shell Kurdish forces defending the city of Erbil, where U.S. personnel are located. Obama said Thursday night that the U.S. military will continue to conduct airstrikes against ISIS if the group continues its advance in Erbil.
Pentagon officials will not take direct questions from reporters on Friday. But should anything happen that warrants an alert to the public, they know where to go.
What We're Following See More »
President Obama has said he’ll nominate John King to fill out the last few months of Obama’s presidency as Secretary of Education. King has been in an acting secretary role since Arne Duncan stepped down in December. The White House is pressuring the Senate to act quickly on the nomination.
Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t taking this whole superdelegate thing lying down. Despite a tie a blowout win against Hillary Clinton, Sanders trails her by some 350 delegates in the overall count, thanks mostly to superdelegates pledging to support her. His backers have taken to creating a MoveOn.org petition to pressure the superdelegates to be flexible. It reads: “Commit to honoring the voters—let everyone know that you won’t allow your vote to defeat our votes. Announce that in the event of a close race, you’ll align yourself with regular voters—not party elites.” So far it’s attracted 162,000 signatures.
House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”
“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.
Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).