👋 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/ Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister denied that Mohammed bin Salman ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, calling it a “rogue operation” by individuals who “made a mistake.” Adel al-Jubeir denied that the crown prince had any prior knowledge of the operation and said that the agents involved “weren’t people closely tied” to him. (Washington Post)
2/ Surveillance video: A Saudi agent walked out of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, a fake beard, and glasses in order to create a misleading trail of evidence. The man in the video, identified as Mustafa al-Madani, was part of the 15-man team that flew to Istanbul to confront Khashoggi. He was seen leaving the consulate through the back door and later at the Blue Mosque. Several members of the team have ties to the crown prince. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)
3/ Jared Kushner said the White House is still “fact-finding” about the circumstances of Khashoggi’s death, declining to say whether he believes Saudi Arabia’s explanation that Khashoggi accidentally died during a fistfight inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. “Once we have all the facts, we’ll make an assessment.” (New York Times / Washington Post)
Steven Mnuchin met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite announcing that he was withdrawing from a conference in Saudi Arabia this week. (Washington Post)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to halt all German arms exports to Saudi Arabia, calling what happened to Khashoggi a “monstrosity.” (Reuters)
4/ The Trump administration plans to redefine the legal definition of gender as strictly biological, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with. The effort by the Department of Health and Human Services would establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, effectively narrowing the definition of gender and deny federal recognition and civil rights protections to transgender Americans. (New York Times)
- The Education Department is expected to narrow the definition of sexual assault that schools are required to consider, providing more rights to those accused of assault. (Wall Street Journal)
5/ Robert Mueller’s team continues to pursue conflicting accounts about Roger Stone’s communication with WikiLeaks. During the presidential campaign, Stone claimed he was in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, predicting that WikiLeaks would release information related to Hillary Clinton. Stone suggested that his friend Randy Credico “was my principal source regarding the allegedly hacked emails published by WikiLeaks.” Credico has denied the claim, telling Mueller’s grand jury that Stone told him during the 2016 campaign that he had a secret back channel to WikiLeaks. Investigators are also looking into whether Stone shared information that he believed was from WikiLeaks with members of Trump’s presidential campaign. (Washington Post / CNN)
poll/ 47% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing – an all-time high. (CNBC)
poll/ Democrats hold a 9-point lead among likely voters over Republicans in congressional preference. 50% of likely voters prefer Democrat to control Congress after the November elections, versus 41% who want Republicans to stay in charge — up 1 point from Democrats’ lead in the September. (NBC News)
Trump claimed that Republicans are planning “very major tax cut” for the middle class before the midterms. Congress, however, is out of session until after November’s midterm elections. Last week, the Treasury Department announced that the government ended the 2018 fiscal year with a $779 billion deficit. (Reuters / Washington Post / Axios)
The Missouri Republican Party sent mailers to 10,000 voters with false information about when absentee ballots are due. The mailers, sent to likely Republican voters, encouraged voters to return their mail-in ballots “today.” Mail-in ballots for the state aren’t due until Wednesday, Oct. 31. (Kansas City Star)
Trump is preparing to call the midterm elections “illegitimate” if Democrats take control of the House or Senate, according to Carl Bernstein. “Trump is already talking about how to throw legal challenges into the courts, sow confusion, declare a victory actually, and say that the election’s been illegitimate.” (Washington Examiner)
Trump tweets about non-existent voter fraud, warning people to “cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!” (CNN)
The EPA will withdraw an Obama-era proposal aimed at regulating how waste from uranium milling is disposed in order to reduce the spread of radon. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the now-scrapped proposal “would have imposed significant burdens on uranium miners.” (The Hill)
Trump blamed Mexico and Democrats for the so-called caravan of migrants heading to the southern U.S. border, threatening to cut off or reduce aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador as citizens flee gang violence and poverty. Trump also attempted to stoke fear about the caravan, claiming that it now includes “unknown Middle Easterners.” (Politico / The Hill / New York Times)
Mikhail Gorbachev: The U.S. withdrawing from the nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia is not the work of “a great mind.” Trump said the U.S. would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty because Russia has violated the agreement. (New York Times / Reuters / Politico)
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