Sean Spicer under fire for his ‘insensitive’ Holocaust reference

Good morning, Maine. Here is your morning briefing.


Expect clouds and a light rain. Our highs will be in the mid to upper 50s today. Check your local forecast here.

National and international headlines

White House press secretary Sean Spicer apologizes for saying Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer triggered an uproar on Tuesday when he said Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons, overlooking the fact that millions of Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers, Reuters’ Ayesha Rascoe reports.

He apologized after his comments drew immediate criticism on social media and elsewhere.

Spicer made the assertion during the daily White House press briefing while discussing about the April 4 chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed 87 people. Washington says the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad orchestrated the attack.

“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said when asked about Russia’s alliance with the Syrian government.

The Nazis murdered six million Jews during World War II. Many Jews as well as others were killed in gas chambers in European concentration camps.

Spicer apologized later on Tuesday, saying he should not have made that comparison.

“It was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done it and I won’t do it again,” Spicer told CNN. “It was inappropriate and insensitive.”

Hitler gassed Jews during WWII but refused to use sarin against military; the mystery is why

So if Hitler gassed and killed six million Jews during World War II, why didn’t he use sarin against his military adversaries?

The German military built a sarin factory in 1943, and German military officers pleaded with Hitler to use it.

Historians and psychologists speculate that Hitler didn’t use sarin because he was a victim of a mustard gas attack in 1918, during World War I, and knew the misery of such weapons, The Washington Post’s Michael S. Rosenwald writes.

“He and several comrades, retreating from their dug-out during a gas attack, were partially blinded by the gas and found their way to safety only by clinging on to each other and following a comrade who was slightly less badly afflicted,” Ian Kershaw wrote in his critically acclaimed Hitler biography.

Hitler described the blindness in his 1924 autobiography, “Mein Kampf.”

“Towards morning,” Hitler wrote, “I also began to feel pain. It increased with every quarter of an hour, and about seven o’clock my eyes were scorching … A few hours later my eyes were like glowing coals, and all was darkness around me.”

Sean Spicer talks about his role as press secretary at the Newseum 

Greta Van Susteren of MSNBC speaks with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at the Newseum. Watch the interview live below.

FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor former Trump adviser Carter Page

The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials tell The Washington Post.

The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, officials told The Post.

One-time adviser of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a presentation in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 12, 2016.
Sergei Karpukhin | REUTERS

FBI Director James Comey last month told the House Intelligence Committee that applications for FISA warrants are often thicker than his wrists, and that thickness represents all the work Justice Department attorneys and FBI agents have to do to convince a judge that such surveillance is appropriate in an investigation.

This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

Page has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in his dealings with the Trump campaign or Russia.

“This confirms all of my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance,” Page said in an interview with The Post. “I have nothing to hide.”

Musician J. Geils, 71, dies at Massachusetts home

Reuters reports that J. Geils, leader of The J. Geils Band whose hard-driving hits of the late 1970s and early 1980s included “Centerfold,” “Freeze Frame” and “Love Stinks,” died Tuesday at his home in Groton, Massachusetts, police said. He was 71.

Groton police said Geils, whose full name was John Warren Geils Jr., appeared to have died of natural causes. After a “well-being check” at the musician’s house at around 4 p.m. EDT, Geils was discovered unresponsive and was declared dead at the scene, police said in a statement.

The J. Geils Band was launched as a blues trio in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the 1960s. It soon switched its focus to electric guitars and bass as it became a staple of the Boston music scene through the 1970s with Geils as its lead guitarist and Peter Wolf on vocals, the group said on its Facebook page.

Ahmadinejad stirs up Iran presidential race with surprise bid

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered for next month’s presidential election in apparent defiance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s advice not to run to avoid polarizing the country, Bloomberg News reports.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves as he arrives for Friday prayers at the 16th century Ottoman era Blue Mosque on his second day of his visit in Istanbul, Aug. 15, 2008.

Ahmadinejad, whose two terms in office were marred by repeated confrontations with the U.S. and Western powers, said last week he had no plans to stand in the election and that he would instead endorse Baghaei.

He played down his chances of winning, insisting that his move was only to show support for his former deputy.

Local headlines

Phish drummer running for local office in Lincolnville

Jonathan Fishman, the drummer for Phish, has decided to have a go at public office in the coastal town Lincolnville. He is running for a spot on the town’s board of selectmen, the BDN’s Nick McCrea reports.

Fishman told the Free Press that his decision to run stems from the latest national election, during which he was an avid supporter of and even campaigned on behalf of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in his bid for president.

“Bernie was saying, ‘Look at all of you people who got on the Sanders campaign and cared about these issues — you should run for your local offices, your school boards, your select boards and committees,’” Fishman told the paper. “Public service is needed across the board, so I guess that kind of sentiment just sat with me.”

Fishman and his wife, Briar, own a home in Lincolnville, as well as a general store that they’re in the process of renovating and hope to open later this spring.

Air Force One touches down in Bangor

Bangor residents who looked up Tuesday afternoon may have seen the President of the United States’ famed white and blue jetliner.

The aircraft at the Bangor International Airport.
Gabor Degre | BDN

Somali man ICE arrested in court is a permanent resident who’s lived in U.S. for 20 years

Abdi Ali doesn’t have memories of the country to which the United States government intends to deport him.

Ali and his family fled war in Somalia in 1996, when he was 7 years old. They came to the U.S. legally as refugees, and Ali became a permanent resident a year later, the BDN’s Jake Bleiberg reports.

In his first interview since ICE agents arrested the 28-year-old inside a Portland courthouse last week, Ali said he is terrified of being sent back to Somalia and does not understand why, after decades in the U.S., he is being deported on a 4-year-old drug possession conviction for which he has already served jail time.

“I’ve been here my whole life, and they [are] kicking me out for this one charge,” Ali said, wiping tears on his orange jumpsuit at the Cumberland County Jail on Monday. “If I go back to my country, they’re going to pretty much kill me. I don’t know [anything] about my country. I’m American. I consider myself American.”

Judge refuses to spare life of Dakota, dog pardoned by LePage

A District Court judge refused Tuesday to spare the life of Dakota, the husky who was thrust onto the national stage after she was pardoned last month by Gov. Paul LePage.

Dakota was pardoned recently by Gov. Paul LePage. A District Court judge had ordered the husky euthanized after it attacked other dogs.
Photo by Humane Society of the Waterville Area

At the 30-minute hearing in Waterville District Court, Judge Valerie Stanfill found that Maine law requires that a dog must be put down after it is declared a dangerous dog and it attacks again.

“The statute says that the dog shall be euthanized,” Stanfill said.