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Turkey's Syria offensive, Biden's impeachment call & 'Sesame Street' tackles the opioid crisis: The Morning Rundown

President Donald Trump defended the pullback of U.S. troops in Syria by saying the Kurds "didn't help us with Normandy."
Image: Free Syrian Army,
Members of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army gesture as they drive to the Turkey-Syria border on Thursday in Akcakale, Turkey.Burak Kara / Getty Images

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Turkey's Syria assault has entered its second day as President Donald Trump offered a novel defense after being accused of abandoning longtime U.S. allies in the region.

Here's what we're watching today.

Turkish troops continue advance into Syria

Turkey says it has hit 180 targets as troops continued their advance into northeastern Syria Thursday, a day after launching an air and ground offensive against Kurdish fighters.

Turkey's invasion of northeastern Syria began on Wednesday after U.S. troops pulled back from the area to clear the way for Turkish forces.

President Donald Trump has been blasted by both Republicans and Democrats for allowing the Turkish military to attack the U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters who have been instrumental partners in the fight against the Islamic State militant group in the region.

Defending his decision during a White House press conference Wednesday, the president tried to downplay the alliance. "They didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy," Trump said about the Kurds. He added that they were only interested in "fighting for their land."

Current and former intelligence officials have warned that the Islamic State militant group could regroup after the U.S. "betrayal" of the Kurdish forces in Syria.

The immediate concern, officials say, is what will happen with the 12,000 ISIS fighters currently being guarded by the American-backed Kurds.

Trump downplayed the threat. "Well they are going to be escaping to Europe, that's where they want to go. They want to go back to their homes," he said during the press conference.

But he also painted a vivid picture of the part of his job as commander-in-chief that has shaped his thinking on pulling back troops in the Middle East — the moments he has shared with the families of slain soldiers.

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Biden calls for Trump's impeachment, calls out 'smears' against his family

Former Vice President Joe Biden called for Trump to be impeached during a blistering campaign speech on Wednesday.

"Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts," Biden said in his strongest comments to date on the matter, adding, "He should be impeached."

The president responded on Twitter almost immediately.

"So pathetic to see Sleepy Joe Biden, who with his son, Hunter, and to the detriment of the American Taxpayer, has ripped off at least two countries for millions of dollars, calling for my impeachment — and I did nothing wrong," Trump said. "Joe's Failing Campaign gave him no other choice!"

NBC News' Jonathan Allen writes in a news analysis that for Trump, an impeachment vote is a race against the clock. But not so much for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Matt Lauer accused of raping NBC colleague, book alleges

According to an upcoming book from journalist Ronan Farrow, a former colleague has accused former “Today” host Matt Lauer of raping her while at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Speaking out at length for the first time since he was fired by NBC News in November 2017, Lauer denied the allegation of sexual assault in a letter issued by his lawyer Wednesday.

He confirmed he had a relationship with former colleague Brooke Nevils but said it was "completely consensual" and that "there was absolutely nothing aggressive" about the encounter she alleges was rape.

Nevils responded to Lauer's letter in a statement to NBC News.

"There's the Matt Lauer that millions of Americans watched on TV every morning for two decades, and there is the Matt Lauer who this morning attempted to bully a former colleague into silence," she said, in part. "His open letter was a case study in victim blaming."

Responding to reports citing the book, NBC News said in a statement Wednesday: "Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time. That’s why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint. Our hearts break again for our colleague."

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THINK about it

Ellen DeGeneres' tone-deaf defense of former President George Bush reveals the cost of acceptance, Marcie Bianco writes in an opinion piece.

Science + Tech = MACH

How a discovery that earned the Nobel Prize transformed the hunt for alien life.


How to plan a relaxing fall road trip that won't break the bank.

One informative thing

Never a show to shy from tough subjects, "Sesame Street" is tackling America's opioid epidemic head on, revealing that Karli, the little green Muppet with yellow hair, was in foster care because her mother suffered from addiction.

When the children's show returns for its 50th season, Karli will explain that her mom "was away for a while because she had a grown-up problem."

The storyline is part of the Sesame Street in Communities project offering supplemental content free to providers, parents and caregivers, designed for kids who are often the unseen victims of addiction.

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Thanks, Petra