U.S. to pull 12,000 troops out of Germany » The United States is moving nearly 12,000 troops out of Germany. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the plan on Wednesday.
ESPER: Of the 11,900, nearly 5,600 servicemembers will be repositioned within NATO countries. and approximately 6,400 will return to the United States, though many of these or similar units will begin conducting rotational deployments back to Europe.
That will reduce the American military presence in Germany by a third, but 24,000 U.S. troops will stay put.
Esper said the military will consolidate various headquarters at other locations in Europe outside of Germany.
He added that the cost of the plan will be in the billions and will take years to complete.
President Trump explained the move, saying once again on Wednesday that Germany isn’t spending enough on defense.
TRUMP: We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple.
Secretary Esper said the move also supports larger strategic goals to deter Russia, reassure European allies and shift forces further east into the Black Sea and Baltic regions.
But members of President Trump’s own party have expressed concerns over the move. Senator Mitt Romney on Wednesday called the plan a “grave error,” saying it’s a slap in Germany’s face that will do lasting harm to American interests.
Federal agents to begin withdrawal from downtown Portland » Federal agents will soon begin a “phased withdrawal” from the city of Portland. WORLD’s Leigh Jones has more.
LJ: Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement … that DHS negotiated the plan with Oregon’s Democratic Governor Kate Brown. He said to allow a drawdown of federal agents … more Oregon State Police officers will be positioned downtown, especially around federal properties.
Governor Brown said agents with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and ICE will begin leaving today.
But Federal Protective Service agents—who are always posted at the federal courthouse—will work alongside state police to guard the facility.
Wolf said that although federal agents will leave the downtown area, they will maintain a presence in Portland—quote—“until we are assured that the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked.”
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.
Lawmakers grill big tech CEOs in antitrust hearing » The CEOs of Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google were in the virtual hot seat on Capitol Hill Wednesday. House members grilled them on whether they’re stifling competition.
Most of the lawmakers sat inside the hearing room wearing masks, but the tech executives testified remotely. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg told members …
ZUCKERBERG: I recognize that there are concerns about the size and power of tech companies. Our services are about connection and our business model is advertising and we face intense competition in both.
And Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said his company accounts for less than 4 percent of U.S. retail sales.
BEZOS: We compete against large established players like Target, Costco, Kroger, and of course, Walmart, a company more than twice Amazon’s size.
Google’s Sundar Pichai and Apple’s Tim Cook also argued their markets are highly competitive.
But the four top execs sometimes struggled to answer pointed questions about their business practices. Pichai and Zuckerberg in particular also faced tough questions about alleged political bias. GOP Congressman Jim Jordan …
JORDAN: The power these companies have to impact what happens during an election, what people—what Americans get to see prior to their voting is pretty darn important.
Ahead of the hearing, President Trump tweeted …“If Congress doesn’t bring fairness to big tech, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with executive orders.”
Coronavirus death toll in U.S. reaches 150,000 » The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus in the United States hit 150,000 this week. That’s according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
That as several states have recently reported new highs for COVID-19 deaths. California reported a record 197 new deaths on Tuesday.
In Florida, despite a recent drop in new hospitalizations … more than 50 hospitals have reached ICU capacity. The Agency for Health Care Administration reports that 54 hospitals have no critical care beds available. The AHCA says statewide, just 16 percent of Florida’s intensive care beds are empty.
Rep. Gohmert tests positive for COVID-19 » Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert tested positive on Wednesday for COVID-19. He got the news just as he was planning to join President Trump aboard Air Force One en route back to Texas.
The Republican immediately faced criticism from some colleagues for shunning masks on Capitol Hill. Gohmert responded …
GOHMERT: Look, I’ve worn a mask more the last week or two than I have in the whole last four months. And I was wearing my mask at the Judiciary hearing.
The 66-year-old Gohmert said he tested positive at the White House and planned to self-quarantine. He is at least the 10th member of Congress known to have tested positive for the disease.
NBA season resumes » At long last, NBA basketball is back. The season resumes tonight inside the league’s coronavirus safezone in Orlando. WORLD’s Anna Johansen has that story.
AJ: The NBA halted its season on March 11th when players began testing positive for COVID-19.
But so far, the so-called “bubble” at Disney’s Wide World of Sports is holding up. There have been no confirmed infections since teams began training at the complex.
And with tonight’s double-header, the season will officially resume.
The New Orleans Pelicans take on the Utah Jazz … before the L.A. Lakers battle the L.A. Clippers.
Only 22 of the league’s 30 teams are resuming play, and of course, the stands will be empty.
The field for the 16-team playoff bracket will be finalized next month … and a champion is now scheduled to be crowned in October.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen.