Trump makes surprise visit to Iraq » President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump made a surprise trip to Iraq on Wednesday. They visited with troops stationed at the Al-Asad Airbase west of Baghdad. It was the president’s first trip to meet with service personnel in a conflict zone.
TRUMP: I wanted to come and see Iraq. I wanted to come and pay my respects, most importantly, to the great soldiers, the great troopers that we have serving here.
The president and first lady took selfies with service members and signed autographs in a dining hall decked with Christmas decorations. Trump then gave a rally-style speech in a nearby hanger.
Taking questions from reporters who made the trip with him, the president defended his decision to pull troops out of Syria.
TRUMP: So I gave notice in Syria. You know, the way it was reported was like I just pulled out. I didn’t just pull out. I’ve been talking about it for a year and a half. I’ve been telling the generals, let’s go. Go ahead take more time. Let’s go, take more time. Constantly giving them more time. Finally, I said, OK, it’s now time for others to take over that fight.
While defending the drawdown in Syria, the president said he had no plans to shrink the military’s presence in Iraq.
Second immigrant child dies in custody » U.S. immigration officials ordered health checks on every child in the agency’s care after two children died this month while in custody. Officials completed the checks Wednesday but did not release the results.
Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told CBS This Morning…
MCALEENAN: This is an extraordinarily rare occurrence. It’s been more than a decade since we’ve had a child pass away anywhere in a CPB process. So this is just devastating for us.
The department ordered the review after an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died on Christmas Eve. Felipe Gómez Alonzo had what medical personnel initially diagnosed as a cold. He was hospitalized earlier on Monday but doctors released him. He returned to a border patrol detention center before going back to the hospital. Investigators are trying to determine what caused his death.
A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala also died while in custody earlier this month. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Wednesday she has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate what she called “an uptick in sick children” crossing the border.
Attack in Afghanistan » Afghanistan’s Health Ministry says the death toll from this week’s attack on a government compound has grown to 40 people. At least 29 others suffered injuries. A suicide bomber attacked the office complex first. Gunmen then stormed the building and held security forces at bay for 8 hours.
One victim described the attack from his hospital bed:
AUDIO: [Man speaking in Farsi]
“They made a hole in the wall and entered … they set fire to our blocks. When I realized that I might be killed by their hand, I jumped from the fourth floor.”
Both Taliban and ISIS militants have staged recent attacks in Afghanistan. But neither group claimed this week’s attack. It was one of the deadliest in the Afghan capital this year.
Russian weapons test » AUDIO: [Clapping, then Putin talking]
Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the test of a new hypersonic weapon on Wednesday. He called the test an “excellent New Year’s gift to the nation.” Putin claims the weapon can pass undetected through all current missile defense systems.
The Kremlin announced the new Avangard system in March in response to U.S. missile defense systems deployed in the region. Putin claimed those systems chip away at Russia’s nuclear deterrent. During Wednesday’s test, Russia’s military fired the weapon from a base in the southern Ural Mountains. It hit its target 3,700 miles away.
Stock market rallies » AUDIO: [Sound of closing bell and cheering]
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange celebrated as markets closed Wednesday, after having their best day in 10 years. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 1,000 points—its biggest point gain ever. Gains in technology, retail, healthcare, and internet stocks drove the broad rally. U.S. crude oil notched its biggest one-day gain in more than two years.
Although trading volume was light, the rebound helped erase the Christmas Eve slump that plunged stocks close to bear market territory.
Even with those gains, the market continues to have its worst December since 1931. It is on track to end the year with the steepest losses in a decade.