Headlines: October 25, 2018
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:28 — 7.8MB)
Former Vice President Joe Biden and actor Robert DeNiro are the latest targets of a mysterious perpetrator who seems to have targeted critics of President Donald Trump with pipe bombs and suspicious packages containing white powder. According to the Washington Post on Thursday morning, “The new packages, which resemble those sent to figures including former president Barack Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, were located in Delaware and New York. The discoveries mean that authorities have recovered nine similar packages as part of the investigation.” Democratic House Representative and frequent target of Trump’s vitriol, Maxine Waters is also reported to have been sent two suspicious packages intercepted by the FBI – one addressed to her Los Angeles office, and one to her Washington DC office. A package containing what may be a pipe bomb was also sent to the New York offices of CNN, although it was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan. Brennan is an analyst for NBC and authorities suspect the CNN package might have been mistakenly sent.
Trump on Wednesday read a statement about the suspicious packages and pipe bombs and called for unity on Wednesday at the White House, responding to the reports of pipe bombs and packages of white powder found to have been mailed to the very people he frequently targets on Twitter and at his rallies. Trump’s calls for unity were short lived however. Later on Wednesday he appeared at a political rally in Wisconsin, which he began by saying that Americans should, “come together in peace and harmony,” and then minutes later slipped into his familiar demonizing of immigrants and blaming Democrats for the immigration problem. Even before he began speaking, members of the gathered crowd were chanting “lock her up“ – a familiar refrain going back to 2016 aimed at Hillary Clinton, one of the targets of the packages.
CNN spokesperson Jeff Zucker laid the blame for the packages at the President’s feet saying, “The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.” Trump has routinely blasted CNN, and his supporters have broken out into chants aimed at CNN during Trump rallies. Mr. Brennan also blamed Trump for creating a climate where such actions are encouraged. He said, “Trump too often has helped to incite some of these feelings of anger, if not violence …His rhetoric too frequently, I think, fuels these feelings and sentiments that now are bleeding over into potential acts of violence.” The far-right media on the other hand implied that the packages were a, “false-flag” operation, intended to hurt Republican chances ahead of the midterms and that they might have been planted by leftwing activists.
In other news, Saudi Arabia has yet again changed its story on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The country’s public prosecutor said that based on information obtained from Turkish authorities, Khashoggi’s killing was pre-meditated. Earlier Saudi authorities had claimed it was an interrogation gone wrong during which Khashoggi died in a chokehold, and before that it had claimed absolutely no knowledge of the killing. This latest admission still does not implicate Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, whose colleagues and allies are implicated in the murder. CIA Director Gina Haspel flew to the region this week and reportedly heard the audio recording that is said to have captured the entire gruesome killing of the Saudi dissident. The Crown Prince spoke out for the first time about Khashoggi on Wednesday, calling his murder, “a heinous crime that cannot be justified.” His position of authority within Saudi Arabia appears to be sidelined by his father King Salman in the wake of the killing.
On Wednesday news broke that Trump has been using insecure cell phones to make phone calls to friends and that Chinese and Russian authorities are routinely listening in. A number of current and former officials spoke anonymously to the New York Times about the President’s disturbing habit. The Times summarized it this way: “When President Trump calls old friends on one of his iPhones to gossip, gripe or solicit their latest take on how he is doing, American intelligence reports indicate that Chinese spies are often listening — and putting to use invaluable insights into how to best work the president and affect administration policy, current and former American officials said.” White House staffers have apparently grown frustrated with the President who has been repeatedly warned not to use the phones and they are simply hoping he refrains from expressing classified information when he does. Trump had been Hillary Clinton’s loudest critic two years ago when it was revealed that she was using email servers that were susceptible to spying.
In other news, most Americans say they aren’t any wealthier than when Trump became President according to the results of a new survey. About 45% of respondents said their finances were about the same as two years ago, and about 17% said they were worse off financially. About 38% said they were better off. Newsweek, which reported on the survey said that, “Among those who said their financial situation had improved, 24 percent attributed the improvement to Trump, 3 percent attributed it to Republicans in Congress and 15 percent said both were responsible, while a notable 55 percent said neither were responsible.”
In Georgia where early voting has started this week and where a contentious gubernatorial race is taking place between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, a judge has ruled against Kemp’s decision to reject absentee ballots based on signature mismatches. According to AP, “U.S. District Judge Leigh May ordered the secretary of state’s office to instruct county election officials to stop the practice for the November midterm elections. She outlined a procedure to allow voters to resolve alleged signature discrepancies.” Meanwhile the NAACP’s Georgia chapter has filed a complaint with state election officials saying they have received reports that ballots cast on aging electronic voting machines are changing votes intended for Abrams to Kemp.
The state of New York is suing Exxon Mobil over its role in lying about the impacts of climate change. State Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed the claim, which AP says is based on how, “Exxon courted investors such as the state’s public pension funds with inaccurate information, assuring them it was accounting for the possibility of stricter regulations of greenhouse gas emission in its planning, when it was doing much less than it claimed.” The lawsuit came after a three year-long investigation and after the state of Massachusetts took similar action.
And finally Trump signed bill into law on Wednesday addressing the opioid crisis. The law is aimed at increasing treatment options for addicts and to help the US postal service screen packages coming from overseas that might contain fentanyl, a potent and deadly opioid.