Obama on Bergdahl Prisoner Exchange: I Would Do It Again

"This is something that I would do again and I will continue to do wherever I have an opportunity," the President told NBC's Brian Williams.

President Barack Obama continued to defend swapping Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban militants Friday, telling NBC News’ Brian Williams that he would do it again despite the public controversy that has followed.

In an interview that aired on the 7oth anniversary of D-Day, Williams asked the President why he didn’t notify key members of Congress in advance, as is typical. Obama replied: “When somebody wears our country’s uniform and they’re in a war theater and they’re captured, we’re going to do everything we can to bring them home.” He added, “We had to act fast in a delicate situation that required no publicity.”

The White House negotiated a prisoner swap of five Taliban leaders for Bergdahl’s release after five years in captivity, but the deal has been mired in controversy in part amid scrutiny of Bergdahl’s absence from his post in Afghanistan before his capture.

“We saw an opportunity and we took it. And I make no apologies for it,” Obama said in the interview. “This is something that I would do again and I will continue to do wherever I have an opportunity, if I have a member of our military who’s in captivity. We’re going to try to get ‘em out.”

Obama spoke with Williams in Normandy, France, where the President joined world leaders to mark the 70thth anniversary of D-Day on Friday. During the full interview, which airs on NBC at 8 p.m ET, Obama also addressed former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he met face-to-face Friday for the first time since relations broke down over the Ukraine crisis earlier this year.

Regarding Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Putin said: “They need to stop financing and arming separatists who have been wreaking havoc in the eastern part of the country– and that if Russia begins to act in accordance with basic international principles, then I’m confident that the United States– Russia relationship will improve,” he said.


TIME 2016 Election

5 Things to Know From Hillary Clinton’s New Book

Clinton on Bergdahl, Benghazi, bin Laden and more

CBS managed to pick up a copy of Hillary Clinton’s new book Hard Choices, which is scheduled for release June 10. Here are some of the choice revelations from the former secretary of state and possible 2016 presidential candidate.

Clinton knew the prisoner exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be politically difficult back home

In every discussion about prisoners, we demanded the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been captured in 2009. There would not be any agreement about prisoners without the sergeant coming home….

I acknowledged, as I had many times before, that opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war.

Clinton remains defiant about investigations into the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi

It is unlikely that there will ever be anything close to full agreement on exactly what happened that night, how it happened, or why it happened. But that should not be confused with a lack of effort to discover the truth or to share it with the American people.

She was most proud of President Barack Obama on the day Osama bin Laden was killed

We watched on the video feed as the SEALs improvised, sweeping through the courtyard of the compound and heading inside to look for bin Laden. Contrary to some news reports and what you see in the movies, we had no means to see what was happening inside the building itself. All we could do was wait for an update from the team on the ground. I looked at the President. He was calm. Rarely have I been prouder to serve by his side as I was that day.

She doesn’t quite compare Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hitler, but…

He also proved over time to be thin-skinned and autocratic, resenting criticism and eventually cracking down on dissent and debate…

She says she was wrong to vote to authorize the Iraq War in 2003

I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.

Meeting with Obama before the 2008 Democratic convention was like an “awkward first date”

We stared at each other like two teenagers on an awkward first date, taking a few sips of Chardonnay. … both Barack and I and our staffs had long lists of grievances. It was time to clear the air.


TIME Crime

Loaded Gun Found in South Carolina Target’s Toys Section

Police are investigating how the firearm ended up in the aisle

A worker at a Target in South Carolina found a loaded gun in a toy aisle.

The employee at the Target in Myrtle Beach, S.C. told police that he saw the 9mm handgun on the shelf and at first thought it was a toy, before realizing it was fully loaded, The State reports. He said had seen a suspicious man walking around the toy section, though it’s unclear if he was the one who left the weapon.

Police are investigating and checking surveillance video to determine how the gun ended up there, according to The State. The gun has not been reported stolen.

[The State]

TIME Transportation

Delaware Will Inspect State’s Major Bridges After I-495 Closure

The state will first inspect bridges of similar structural design to the one that was shut down on Monday after its support columns were shown to be tilting

Delaware’s transportation secretary ordered an immediate inspection of major bridges on Thursday, days after an I-495 bridge was shuttered because of tilting support columns.

DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt said that his agency will begin by inspecting bridges of similar design for the same problem and then extend the review to every major bridge in the state, the Associated Press reports.

The state shut down the I-495 bridge on Monday and believe that a large mound of dirt dumped in the area under the bridge may have the shifted the ground and caused the columns to tilt. The agency will be looking to make sure that the area under the state’s bridges is clearly marked to avoid similar pilings of dirt.

“I want eyes on all those bridges immediately,” Bhatt told the AP. “We’ve literally got folks going out today.”


TIME Religion

Pope Francis Sacks Entire Board of Vatican’s Financial Watchdog

The pontiff has replaced the all-Italian board of the Financial Information Authority with an international group of new members — including Juan C. Zarate, a Harvard professor and former Bush Administration official

Pope Francis replaced the entire, all-Italian board of the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog Thursday amid clashes over the pace of reform, the Boston Globe reports.

The Financial Information Authority was created in 2010 to combat money laundering and bring the Vatican into compliance with international standards, and Pope Francis has brought a renewed focus on the agency since he was elected over a year ago and made financial reform a priority.

But the board has faced infighting since Swiss anti-money-laundering expert Rene Bruelhart became its director in 2012, capped by Italian Cardinal Attilio Nicora’s resignation as its head in January.

Pope Francis and Bruelhart have pushed for a more international board, with new members hailing from Italy, Singapore, Switzerland and the U.S., including Juan C. Zarate, a Harvard professor and a former official in the George W. Bush administration.

[Boston Globe]

TIME Autos

General Motors Fires 15 People Linked to Recall Scandal

An internal GM report found no deliberate cover up and said the top management did not know about the defect until the recall

General Motors CEO Mary Barra said Thursday the automaker has fired 15 people and disciplined five others following an internal investigation into why it took more than a decade to address a defect that’s led to the death of at least 13 people.

“Some were removed because of what we consider misconduct or incompetence. Others have been relieved because they simply didn’t do enough: They didn’t take responsibility; didn’t act with any sense of urgency,” Barra said.

However, Barra said the report found no deliberate cover-up by the company — GM’s top management was unaware of the problem until the company decided to begin recalling millions of affected vehicles earlier this year, according to the report. Instead, Barra put the blame on “a pattern of management deficiencies and misjudgments.”

GM top brass ordered the report, conducted by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, after the company began massive recalls in February because of defective ignition switches, which caused some cars to lose power steering and airbag functions. The report laid out a series of findings and recommendations that Barra said the company had already begun to undertake.

GM has recalled at least 13.5 million vehicles for various issues this year, 2.6 million of which because of ignition switch problems. The recalls came after the company was put under intense pressure from Congress and federal authorities for its failure to fix the switch issues for more than a decade. On Thursday, Barra suggested that more recalls will follow.

“As I’m sure you know, we are taking an aggressive approach on recalls,” she said. “In the near term, you might expect to see a few more recall announcements.”

Barra also announced a compensation program for victims seriously injured as a result of the defective ignition switch as well as the families of those killed in connection with the problem. The program, which will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg — who ran the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund — will begin accepting claims on Aug. 1.

TIME viral

This Is the Worst Wheel of Fortune Guess Ever

He had plenty going for him. But then he guessed this?

On Wednesday night’s Wheel of Fortune, with all but a few letters on the board, Stephen rang in to give it a shot. Even if he was no Jan and Dean fan—the category was song lyrics—he had two complete words: “S_RF C__Y _ERE WE COME”


“Surf Clay Where We GO”

“Uh, no,” host Pat Sajak responded matter-of-factly. Watch it and cringe.

TIME Economy

Job Market Dropouts May Be Rejoining the Workforce

People who had given up on looking for a job may be re-entering the the job market, an encouraging sign for the recovery.

Even as unemployment rates have inched towards pre-recession levels, recovery skeptics have pointed to the high number of people who have given up looking for a job and are, as a result, left out of official employment numbers.

Now, there’s some evidence to show even that trend is reversing, Reuters reports.

The share of people who have a job or are looking for one rose in a majority of U.S. states in the six months leading up to April of this year, according to a Reuters analysis of government data, marking the first upswing in those numbers in six years.

The rising participation rate likely means that people who had given up on looking are now confident enough to re-enter the job market, an encouraging sign for the economic recovery.

The data is not conclusive, according to Reuters. But participation rates appeared to have risen in a diverse set of states, including Texas, Florida and West Virginia. The 32 states where the figures rose also represent a majority of the U.S. population.


TIME Companies

Sprint Reportedly Set To Buy T-Mobile in Another Major Merger

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son Attends Earnigns News Conference
Bloomberg / Bloomberg via Getty Images Billionaire Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank Corp., speaks in front of a screen displaying the logo of Sprint Corp. during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.

The third and fourth largest mobile networks are reportedly nearing a merger that would help them stay competitive against industry leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T

In a deal that would combine the third and fourth largest wireless telephone companies respectively, Sprint is reportedly close to acquiring T-Mobile in a deal that values T-Mobile at around $32 billion.

The acquisition, which would need federal approval, may happen early this summer, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported on the deal Wednesday night, citing people familiar with the matter. The New York Times and Bloomberg also reported the story Wednesday.

According to those reports, Sprint would pay around $40 a share for T-Mobile, a premium of 17 percent on Wednesday’s closing price. It would also owe T-Mobile about $1 billion if the deal falls through, meaning Sprint’s making a big bet that regulators will allow the merger to pass unimpeded.

The Sprint/T-Mobile deal follows AT&T’s recent move to acquire DirecTV, which would reinforce AT&T’s position as the company’s second biggest wireless provider, following Verizon Wireless. Sprint and T-Mobile may in fact argue to regulators that joining forces is the only way to stay competitive with Verizon Wireless and AT&T in the long-term.


TIME China

5 Things You Should Know About the Tiananmen Square Massacre

TIME looks back in history on the 25th anniversary

Twenty-five years ago Wednesday, Chinese troops violently retook the square in Beijing where pro-democracy protesters had set up camp for weeks. The Tiananmen Square massacre left an unknown number dead, with some estimates in the thousands, and smothered a democratic movement. But after a quarter-century—and a thorough attempt by the Chinese government to conceal the events that unfolded that June—our collective memory is sometimes limited to not much more than an image of a man defiantly standing in front of a tank.

So TIME went back in history to pull out the details, context and feelings of those grim days from our own unfolding coverage at the time, including a cover story from the June 12, 1989 issue. The articles give color, detail and context that are sometimes lost 25 years later. Here are five key facts that may have been buried in time:

It wasn’t the only protest

The demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, which at one point had reportedly ballooned to a million people, were not the only pro-democracy protests in the country at the time. Demonstrations had spread to hundreds of cities, including Shanghai, China’s largest, and in the days after the military mobilized in Beijing, protesters were putting up blockades in Shanghai.

And to be sure, it wasn’t the first time protesters had filled the Square in Beijing, a space for public protest. More than a decade earlier, in what became known as the Tiananmen Incident, a similar if smaller-scale crackdown on protesters spawned outrage and led to a reshuffling of the nation’s top leadership.

In a report on the “Tank Man” several years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, TIME described the Square as:

Tiananmen Square–the very heart of the Middle Kingdom, where students had demonstrated in 1919 [as part of the “May Fourth Movement”]; where Mao had proclaimed a “People’s Republic” in 1949 on behalf of the Chinese people who had “stood up”; and where leaders customarily inspect their People’s Liberation Army troops—is a virtual monument to People Power in the abstract.

Gorbachev entered through the back door

The protests presented an embarrassing pickle for the Chinese government during a visit from the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev, the first visit from a leader of China’s communist peer in 30 years. The Chinese had scheduled a state banquet in the Great Hall of the People at the edge of the Square in May, as the protests raged. Gorbachev ended up having to go through the back door.

When the military opened fire, a lopsided battle ensued

In the early hours of June 4, 50 trucks and as many as 10,000 troops rumbled into the streets, TIME reported just days later. The military overwhelmed the civilians and began firing into crowds, but some protesters held fast, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. In some cases, they responded with deadly violence: Demonstrators reportedly beat two soldiers to death who had been seen killing a civilian. In another instance, protesters covered an armored personnel carrier in banners and then set the vehicle ablaze, trapping the crew of eight or nine soldiers. The military continued its onslaught and skirmishes lasted throughout the morning, “but by then the great, peaceful dream for democracy had become a horrible nightmare.” A doctor at the time said at least 500 were dead; a radio announcer said 1,000.

A goddess lived and died

A few days before the raid on the square, “in a flash of exuberance” as TIME wrote at the time, the protesters erected a “Goddess of Democracy” that partially resembled the Statue of Liberty. The 30-foot statue swiftly made from Styrofoam and plaster became a symbolic monument to the pro-democracy movement, and was intended to be large enough to be difficult or at least embarrassing for authorities to take down. Tanks crushed her when troops took the square, TIME reported.

The Tank Man was and still is anonymous

“Almost certainly he was seen in his moment of self-transcendence by more people than ever laid eyes on Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and James Joyce combined,” essayist Pico Iyer wrote in TIME about Tank Man, the nameless individual who was pictured stopping a column of tanks on June 5, a day after the massacre. The man was ultimately hustled to safety by fellow protesters and quite lost to the crowd. Only rumors of his identity persist, and when Chinese leader Jiang Zermin was asked a year later if he know what had happened to the young man, he responded: “I think never killed.”

Check out Iyer’s full piece on the “Unknown Rebel” here.

TIME‘s issue from June 12, 1989 features a cover from the massacre. You can read a free preview of the story, which is part of our archive open to subscribers, here.


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