Day 669: A failure to abide.
1/ The CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, contradicting the Saudi government’s claims that he was not involved in the killing. The evidence included an intercept showing a member of the 15-person team calling an aide to Prince Mohammed and saying “tell your boss” that the mission was accomplished. Trump called Saudi Arabia a “truly spectacular ally,” telling senior White House officials that he wants Prince Mohammed to remain in power as a check on Iran. Trump also claimed that the CIA “haven’t assessed anything yet,” but “as of this moment we were told that [Prince Mohammed] did not play a role.” (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / Politico)
Trump won’t listen to what he called the “suffering tape” of Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Trump also maintained that the crown prince told him “maybe five different times” and “as recently as a few days ago” that he had nothing to do with the killing. (Washington Post)
The White House official responsible for U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia resigned. Kirsten Fontenrose had pushed for tough sanctions against the Saudi government in the response to the killing of Khashoggi. (New York Times)
2/ Trump probably won’t sit down for an in-person interview with Robert Mueller, saying “we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is, probably, we’re finished.” Trump also claimed he didn’t know that his Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker opposed the Mueller investigation, but said Whitaker is “right” about his criticism of the special counsel’s investigation. The two have had multiple conversations about the probe over the last year. (Fox News / New York Times / NBC News)
- Kellyanne Conway said Trump is “not afraid” to sit down with Mueller, because “it just doesn’t seem necessary.” (The Hill)
3/ Trump won’t stop Whitaker from curtailing Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion by Trump campaign officials with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump said he would “not get involved” if Whitaker moved to restrict it. (Bloomberg / Reuters)
4/ A group of Senate Democrats are suing to block Whitaker from serving as acting attorney general, saying the appointment is unconstitutional. They’re asking a federal judge to remove him because the appointment violates the Constitution since Whitaker has not been confirmed by the Senate. Adam Schiff added that not only is Whitaker’s appointment “flawed,” but “that he was chosen for the purpose of interfering with the Mueller investigation. He auditioned for the part by going on TV and saying he could hobble the investigation.” (Associated Press / Daily Beast / The Guardian)
5/ Trump called the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman “little Adam Schitt” after the administration spent a week complaining about the need for decorum as part of its tiff with CNN and Jim Acosta, whose press credentials Trump revoked earlier this month. The White House did not comment on whether Trump misspelled Schiff’s name intentionally. Melania Trump’s office, who has spearheaded anti-cyberbullying efforts through her “Be Best” initiative, also did not comment. (Vox / CNN / Politico)
6/ After first threatening to suspend Acosta’s press pass again after the current restraining order expires, the White House reversed course and “fully restored” Acosta’s credentials. On Friday, Judge Timothy J. Kelly ruled that Acosta’s right to due process had been violated when the White House suspended his pass. After the ruling, the White House sent Acosta a formal letter outlining a “preliminary decision” to again suspend his pass once the temporary order expires, citing a “fail[ure] to abide” by “basic, widely understood practices” when asking follow-up questions and not giving up the microphone right away. CNN and Acosta asked a federal judge for an emergency hearing to allow the judge to enter a more permanent preliminary injunction. The White House instead told CNN they would restore Acosta’s press credentials as long as he follows new rules at presidential news conferences, which include asking just one question at a time and “physically surrendering the microphone.” (Washington Post / NBC News / Axios / CNN)
Trump criticized the retired Navy SEAL who led the raid on Osama bin Laden, saying that he should’ve caught bin Laden sooner. Adm. Bill McRaven called Trump’s attack on the news media “the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.” Trump responded by calling the now-retired four-star admiral a “Hillary Clinton fan” and scoffing that it would “have been nice if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner.” (Fox News / NBC News / CNN)
Trump revived his threat to shut down the federal government next month if Congress fails to give him the $20 billion needed to build his border wall. Trump asked lawmakers for $5 billion for new wall construction in fiscal 2019, which Democrats opposed. The Senate compromised with $1.6 billion for the wall. (Washington Post)
The 5,800 troops Trump sent to the Southwest border will start coming home just as some members of the refugee caravan arrive at the border. All the troops should be home by Christmas. (Politico)
Trump claimed Finland’s president told him they rarely have forest fires because they “spend a lot of time raking.” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he never discussed that with Trump. During his visit to California, Trump declined to blame the deadliest and most devastating wildfire in the state’s history on climate change, instead declaring: “I have a strong opinion: I want great climate.” (Politico / CNN / Associated Press / The Guardian)
Become a member.
Help keep WTF Just Happened Today going with a small contribution.