Headlines: October 18, 2018
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 7:43 — 7.1MB)
President Trump has asked Turkish officials to present all the evidence they have on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, including audio and video recordings. On Wednesday Trump said, “We’ve asked for it, if it exists,” and then later added, “I’m not sure yet that it exists.” Turkish officials say they have audio evidence and a Turkish newspaper earlier this week published a gruesome account of Khashoggi’s murder based on the recording.
Meanwhile the Washington Post on Wednesday published a posthumous column by Khashoggi. The piece, entitled, “What the Arab world needs most is free expression,” was sent to the paper’s editors by Khashoggi’s assistant the day after he was missing. In a note published with the column, editor Karen Attiah wrote, “This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.” Khashoggi wrote in his column, “The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power.”
Trump has been using his Twitter account to threaten the governments of Central American nations over a migrant caravan heading to the United States. Earlier this week he tweeted, “Anybody entering the United States illegally will be arrested and detained, prior to being sent back to their country!” and then in a separate tweet he said, “We have today informed the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that if they allow their citizens, or others, to journey through their borders and up to the United States, with the intention of entering our country illegally, all payments made to them will STOP (END)!” There are reports of about 2,000 Hondurans traveling north to the US in a large caravan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is headed to Central America this month. On Thursday morning Trump went further on Twitter threatening to send the US military to the border, saying, “I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught – and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!”. An Al Jazeera report from the caravan featured the voices of many migrants explaining why they are heading to the US.
In other news White House Counsel Don McGahn has left the White House – Wednesday was his last day. President Trump had announced McGahn would be leaving after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh – which of course took a lot longer than Trump expected. During the confirmation battle, McGahn was one of the accused sexual predator’s strongest defenders. McGahn also helped the Trump administration vet the many conservative judges that have been appointed to lower courts. He will be replaced by a lawyer named Pat Cipollone who has already been advising Trump.
In election related news, Trump and the Republicans have been pouring money to the tune of $5 million into a key Senate race in Montana to unseat 2-term Democrat Jon Tester. According to Associated Press, “The contest is on pace to be the most expensive in Montana history, and it’s been driven by Trump’s apparent personal interest in Tester’s defeat and his efforts to ensure Republicans keep power in the Senate.” The reason for Trump’s interest is that Tester made allegations against Trump’s Veterans Affairs nominee Ronny Jackson that ended up ruining Jackson’s chances. Republican Matt Rosendale who is loyal to Trump, is challenging Tester but relied on outside help from his party.
Minnesota Democratic House candidate Ilhan Omar, who is slated to become one of two first Muslim women to serve in Congress is battling a right-wing smear campaign. The Somali American faces Republican candidate Jennifer Zielinski for the seat vacated by Representative Keith Ellison. Zielinski is a little known figure with no political experience. Omar is being accused of having married her brother and committing immigration fraud. According to AP, “Minnesota Republicans in the 5th District began a digital billboard campaign and launched a website that highlights the allegations, many of which were first raised by conservative media outlets in 2016 as Omar was running for her seat in the Minnesota Legislature.” In a statement Omar said, “We recognize how these folks are deeply invested in stopping a progressive, Black, Muslim, hijab-wearing, immigrant woman. We know these people are part of systems that have historically been disturbingly motivated to silence, discredit and dehumanize influencers who threaten the establishment.”
The US Justice Department has said it will be asking the US Supreme Court to intervene by the end of the month on lawsuits regarding the “Dreamers,” and their challenge to Trump’s termination of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The case is currently before an appellate court. According to Reuters, “It would be unusual for the Supreme Court to weigh in before the appeals court has ruled.” Thousands of DACA registrants are awaiting the outcome of the legal challenge.
Trump on Wednesday threatened to withhold federal funding from California to help it battle fires. At a cabinet meeting focused on the issue Trump said, “It’s hurting our budget, it’s hurting our country and they better get their act together.” His comments come at a time when California has had record fires, spurred by climate change-driven conditions. Reuters reports that, “Trump said the state should do more to remove rotten trees and other debris that fuel fires.” But of course the President is hardly an expert on fire fighting procedures. California Governor Jerry Brown’s Press Secretary Evan Westrup shot back, “The president’s comments are about as credible as his self-proclaimed ‘natural instinct for science.'”
President Trump’s favorite social media company Twitter says it is releasing information on all known user accounts involved in election meddling going back to 2016. According to AP, “Twitter has already disclosed the account numbers, but is now releasing the actual tweets, images, video and other information so that outside researchers can study them.” Additionally, “the data comprises more than 4,600 accounts and over 10 million tweets, most affiliated with the Russia-linked Internet Research Agency and potentially linked to Iran. Twitter says the earliest activity it found on its service from these accounts dates back to 2009.”