👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ Trump suggested that “rogue killers” may be responsible for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi because King Salman “firmly denied any knowledge” of what happened. “It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers,” Trump said. “Who knows?” During an interview with “60 Minutes,” Trump said that even though the Saudis denied involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, it was still possible that they were responsible. “We’re going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment.” (New York Times / Politico / CBS News)
2/ The Saudis are preparing to admit that Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation gone wrong. Previously, Saudi authorities had maintained Khashoggi left the consulate the same afternoon of his visit, but provided no evidence to support the claim. Multiple sources said the Saudis are discussing a plan to admit that Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but that the operation was carried out without clearance in an effort to absolve Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of responsibility by giving him plausible deniability to say he didn’t order the killing and didn’t know about it.(CNN) / NBC News)
3/ Jared Kushner appears to have paid almost no federal income taxes from 2009 to 2016. Kushner used a tax-minimizing loophole that kept his tax bill low by reporting real estate losses based on “significant depreciation,” according confidential financial documents. Nothing in the documents indicate that Kushner broke the law. Despite Kushner Companies being profitable, Kushner has been losing money for years as far as the IRS is concerned, because the losses were driven by depreciation. Real estate investors deduct a portion of the cost of their buildings from their taxable income every year. (New York Times)
- 📌 The Re-up: Trump inherited his family’s wealth through fraud and questionable tax schemes, receiving the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire. Trump has repeatedly claimed that “I built what I built myself.” Trump and his siblings used fake corporations to hide financial gifts from their parents, which helped Fred Trump claim millions in tax deductions. Trump also helped his parents undervalue their real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars when filing their tax returns. In total, Fred and Mary Trump transferred more than $1 billion in wealth to their children and paid a total of $52.2 million in taxes (about 5%) instead of the $550+ million they should have owed under the 55% tax rate imposed on gifts and inheritances. Trump also “earned” $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s companies starting at age 3. After college, Trump started receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year, which increased to $5 million a year when he was in his 40s and 50s. Trump has refused to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. There is no time limit on civil fines for tax fraud. [Editor’s note: This is a must read. An abstract summary does not suffice.] (New York Times)
4/ Sen. Elizabeth Warren released the results of a DNA test that provides “strong evidence” of Native American ancestry dating back six to 10 generations. Warren has been mocked by Trump and other Republicans for claiming she has Native American blood. (Boston Globe / NPR / Washington Post)
5/ Trump denied offering Warren $1 million to take a test proving her Native American heritage. “Who cares?” Trump said when asked about Warren’s DNA test. “I didn’t say that. You better read it again.” At a rally in July, Trump said: “And we will say, ‘I will give you a million dollars, paid for by Trump, to your favorite charity if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian … we’ll see what she does. I have a feeling she will say no but we will hold it for the debates.” (Washington Post / CNN / The Hill)
poll/ 41% approve of the job Trump is doing – up from 36% in late August. 54% disapprove of his work in office. (ABC News)
poll/ 46% of Americans think Trump will win a second term while and 47% say he won’t. In March, 54% of adults said they thought Trump would lose his bid for a second term. (CNN)
poll/ 77% of registered voters say they are certain to vote in the midterm elections next month or have already voted. 54% of voters say they prefer the next Congress to be in Democratic hands as a way of providing a check on Trump – from 60 percent in August. (Washington Post)
Trump said it doesn’t matter whether Christine Blasey Ford was telling the truth, “because we won. It doesn’t matter.” Ford testified that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school during the 1980s, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that she thought she would “accidentally be killed” by Kavanaugh. (CBS News / CNN / NBC News / The Hill)
A Trump campaign donor and Mar-a-Lago member gave $150,000 to help current and former Trump aides caught up in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. (Politico)
Trump suggested that Defense Secretary James Mattis could be one of the next administration officials to leave. “At some point,” Trump said, “everybody leaves.” (CBS News)
The federal budget deficit grew to $779 billion in Trump’s first full fiscal year as president – the highest level in six years. The deficit rose nearly 17% year over year, from $666 billion in 2017, and is on pace to top $1 trillion a year before the next presidential election. (CNBC / Bloomberg / New York Times)
Trump said that Sears had been mismanaged for years before it declared bankruptcy. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin was a member of Sears’s board from 2005 until December 2016. (Bloomberg)
A Republican lawmaker took a student’s cell phone from him while he was being asked about voter suppression in the state. The student asked Sen. David Perdue: “Hey, so, uh, how can you endorse a candidate — “ before Perdue snatched the cell phone from his hands. Perdue eventually gave the phone back to the student and walked away without answering the question. (Washington Post)
The Department of Homeland Security said there’s been an increasing number of attempted cyber attacks on U.S. election databases ahead of next month’s midterms. The federal government does not know who is behind the attacks. (NBC News)
Trump hung a fictional painting in the White House that shows him seated at a table with past Republican presidents. Rep. Darrel Issa gave the painting to Trump, which is called “The Republican Club” by Andy Thomas. (Daily Beast)
oh my god, it's hanging in the white house pic.twitter.com/wrq8eo7Bvx— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) October 15, 2018
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