News Wrap: Obama attributes Trump’s rise to obstructive GOP; leaks identify ISIS fighters

In our news wrap Thursday, President Obama refused to accept blame for the rise of antiestablishment populists like Donald Trump in the 2016 election, saying that the fault lies with the GOP’s years of hardline opposition to his administration. Also: British and German news sources indicated that they have received leaked files listing the names and backgrounds of Islamic State operatives.

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    Good evening. I'm Hari Sreenivasan. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff are away.

    On the "NewsHour" tonight: immigration on the debate stage in Florida for both Republicans and Democrats.

    Also ahead this Thursday, "The Atlantic" writer Jeffrey Goldberg takes a deep dive into President Obama's foreign policy approach.

  • JEFFREY GOLDBERG, The Atlantic:

    He believed that, if he had gone into Syria in 2013, the whole of his second term would have been eaten up, consumed by the Syrian civil war.


    And how much longer will federal interest rates remain low?

    All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."



    In the day's other news, President Obama weighed in on the presidential race, and said Republican leaders can't blame him for the rise of Donald Trump. He spoke after meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and he said years of hard-line opposition to his policies set the stage for what he called the Republican crack-up.


    There are thoughtful conservatives who are troubled by this, who are troubled by the direction of their party. I think it is very important for them to reflect on what it is about the politics they have engaged in that allows the circus we have been seeing to transpire.


    The president also said he will announce a nominee soon for the U.S. Supreme Court. Senate Republicans say they won't consider any nominee during this election year.

    An intelligence windfall may be coming in the fight against the Islamic State group. British and German news organizations reported today they have received a trove of files naming ISIS fighters and their backgrounds.

    As Darshna Soni of Independent Television News reports, it puts the militants on the defensive.


    In recent weeks, the group has suffered a series of setbacks, and now another blow, one which will affect the morale of its foreign fighters and which will provide the security services with new intelligence on the group.

    Leaked by an ISIS defector, 22,000 documents containing the names and personal details of around 1,700 foreign fighters — the documents are in effect the entrance questionnaires for would-be recruits, thought to be from a border crossing in Syria. They list details such as date of birth, home address and even blood group.

    SHIRAZ MAHER, International Center for the Study of Radicalisation: It tells you who vouched for you inside ISIS to get you in, and so if you broke that down by different European countries, it would allow you to understand who key recruits were in certain places. That's quite significant.


    The documents show that the recruits were asked to list previous jihadi experience and to choose what role they'd like to play, including suicide bomber.

    But their real value is in revealing networks, key recruiters and the links between them. The files have been published at a time when ISIS has suffered a number of setbacks. It has lost big chunks of territory and access to oil revenues.

    One of its most senior commanders, Abu Omar al Shishani, has reportedly been seriously injured and its chemical weapons chief captured by American special forces. Added to that, 66 fighters defected to the FSA in Northern Syria. But analysts warn of exaggerating their decline.

    According to the Institute for the Study of War, ISIS may have faced territorial losses in February in Syria and Iraq, but it made gains elsewhere. It strengthened its presence in Libya around Sirte and the group reached further afield with attacks or arrests in nations across the region.

    The documents may not immediately affect the ability and influence of ISIS on the ground, but the fact that they have been leaked will affect the reputation of an organization for whom propaganda is everything.


    German federal police say they're now in possession of some of the material, and it appears genuine.

    Migrants kept pouring into Greece today from Turkey, as an agreement loomed that could send them back. Rescue crews were out early near the island of Lesbos. Their arrivals added to the more than 40,000 people now stranded in Greece.

    Meanwhile, in Brussels, some in the European Union complained the E.U. is giving up too much to win Turkey's cooperation.

  • JOHANNA MIKL-LEITNER, Interior Minister, Austria:

    I think it's highly questionable if Turkey's government takes over~ an opposition newspaper and three days later confronts the European Union with a wish list and is rewarded. I question whether, in the end, we're throwing us and our values overboard and what one should think of that.


    Under the draft deal, Turkey would get more than $6 billion in aid, plus fast-track discussions on its bid to join the European Union.

    Pope Francis imposed new financial regulations today for canonizing saints, amid allegations of mismanagement and corruption. Exposes in Italy have reported that contracts for verifying sainthood go to a favored few, and the overall cost averages $550,000. They also found the accounts used for that process are largely unregulated. Now an administrator will oversee each case.

    Back in this country, heavy rain in northern Louisiana has left three dead, including a 6-year-old girl. Up to 18 inches fell in some places, forcing 1,000 people to leave their homes. In Shreveport, there was heavy flooding along the Red River. And elsewhere, social media video captured fish swimming and thrashing around on flooded streets. At least four other states are affected, with more rain to come this week.

    Wall Street had a relatively quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost five points to close at 16995. The Nasdaq fell 12 points, and the S&P 500 added a fraction.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": election strategies for winning Ohio and Florida; the Obama doctrine, an in-depth look at the 44th president's foreign policy; making sense of historically low interest rates; why Poland's influence is key to solving the migrant crisis; and much more.

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