October 5, 2016

Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine spent the vice presidential debate tussling over the tops of their tickets, with Pence on the defensive for many of Donald Trump's controversial statements. Many analysts agreed, though, that Pence did a deft job sidestepping Kaine's baiting, and recasting challenges of Trump's comments with a more positive spin.

But just as often, Pence simply denied Trump had said any of the things Kaine quoted. While that perhaps worked on stage, it looks pretty silly in this video released by Hillary Clinton's camp in response:

"It's okay, Mike," Clinton's camp says. "We'd have a hard time defending him, too." Jeva Lange

10:06 a.m. ET

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) didn't name any names in its statement issued Wednesday, but it didn't need to. In the statement, released the week after President Trump hesitated to directly condemn white supremacists and blamed "both sides" for the violence at the Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally, the U.N. committee called on "high-level politicians" in the U.S. to "unequivocally and unconditionally reject and condemn racist hate speech and crimes in Charlottesville and throughout the country."

The call was made in conjunction to an "early warning" about the rise of racist displays in the U.S. "We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants, and salutes by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred," CERD Chairperson Anastasia Crickley said in a statement.

The Guardian noted that the only other such early warnings given in the past decade were issued in Burundi, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kyrgyzstan, and Nigeria. Becca Stanek

9:50 a.m. ET

ESPN is pulling college football announcer Robert Lee from covering a Virginia game this season because his name is only one initial away from being shared with the Confederate general, the New York Daily News reports. While Lee's name might have raised eyebrows in Charlottesville, where violence erupted over protests concerning the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the announcer is Asian-American and shares "no heritage to the former military leader of the Confederacy," the Daily News reports.

Lee was slated to cover a football game between Virginia and William & Mary when protests broke out in Charlottesville earlier this month. ESPN said in a statement that the decision was made due to "the reasonable possibility that because of [Lee's] name, he would be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else." The statement went on to say: "No politically correct efforts. No race issues. Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid the potential zoo." Jeva Lange

9:40 a.m. ET
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A federal jury in Las Vegas declined on Tuesday to convict any of the four men who participated in the standoff between Bureau of Land Management agents and supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in 2014. The jury cleared Oklahoma resident Richard Lovelien and Steven Stewart of Idaho of all charges, and dismissed the main conspiracy and extortion charges against Eric Parker and O. Scott Drexler, both from Idaho. Federal prosecutors have not decided if they will retry Drexler and Parker, who was famously photographed aiming a rifle at BLM agents.

This was the second time the four defendants had been tried, after a jury deadlocked on the charges against them in April, while convicting two others of multiple charges. Prosecutors charged the six men and 13 others last year; two took plea deals, and the others were divided into three groups, based on the severity of the charges. The trial that just concluded was the lowest tier in terms of alleged involvement in the 2014 standoff, when Bundy and his supporters threatened violence against federal agents coming to seize some of his cattle to pay off more than $1 million Bundy owed the government for unpaid grazing fees.

Bundy and two of his sons, Ammon and Ryan, will be in the next round of trials. Ammon and Ryan Bundy were acquitted last year of charges stemming from their armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. Peter Weber

9:35 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump's response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally certainly didn't do his already dismal approval rating any favors. A Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday, and taken entirely after the violence in Charlottesville, showed Trump's approval rating at a new low of 39 percent. The week before Trump blamed "both sides" for the rally's violence and hesitated to directly condemn white supremacists, his approval rating sat 5 points higher, at 44 percent.

Notably, Trump's rating decline can be mostly attributed to self-identified Republican voters' waning approval: Trump's approval rating among Republicans dropped from 81 percent last week to 73 percent. His approval rating among Democrats and independents dipped just 1 point, though 71 percent of Democrats deemed the president's response to be "inappropriate."

On the whole, only 16 percent said that Trump's response was "unifying." On Tuesday night, Trump doubled down on his response, claiming the media had downplayed anti-fascist protesters' actions.

The poll surveyed 1,987 voters from Aug. 17-19. Its margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points. Becca Stanek

9:24 a.m. ET

President Trump faced criticism in April over his announcement that he was "very much" in support of controversial Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a statement that made his administration's decision Tuesday to deny Egypt millions in aid and military funding all the more surprising for critics, The New York Times reports.

Sisi had not visited the White House in eight years prior to Trump's invitation because former President Barack Obama was critical of Sisi's undemocratic rule and record on human rights. Additionally, Egypt has been a longtime ally of North Korea. On Tuesday, though, the Trump administration slapped down Egypt's $96 million in aid and froze $195 million for the military over the country's "lack of progress in human rights and a new law restricting the activities of nongovernmental organizations," the Times writes, adding: "Asked if Egypt's robust relationship with North Korea played a role in Tuesday's action, a State Department official would say only that issues of concern have been raised with Cairo, but refused to provide details about the talks."

"It is unusual that the Trump administration would take a punitive measure against Egypt, given the president's outreach to President Sisi and his general embrace of this Egyptian government," said Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "I would not say reports of difficulties with Egypt's human rights situation or its connection with North Korea are new." Jeva Lange

8:42 a.m. ET

Morning Joe aired exclusive excerpts from Hillary Clinton's forthcoming memoir about the 2016 campaign, What Happened, on Wednesday, including one passage about her desire to turn to Donald Trump during the second presidential debate and demand, "Back up you creep, get away from me."

Trump caught viewers' attention in October 2016 for looming behind Clinton throughout the debate. "Two days before, the world heard him brag about groping women," Clinton writes. "Now we were on a small stage and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces. It was incredibly uncomfortable. He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled."

"Well, what would you do?" Clinton asks in her memoir. "Do you stay calm, keep smiling, and carry on as if he weren't repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye, and say loudly and clearly: 'Back up you creep, get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can't intimidate me, so back up.'"

Clinton adds that her memoir is intended to "pull back the curtain on an experience that was exhilarating, joyful, infuriating, and just plain humbling." It is due out on Sept. 12. Listen to more of the excerpts on Morning Joe. Jeva Lange

7:51 a.m. ET

Photos released Wednesday by North Korea's state-run media appear to show the country is developing two new ballistic missiles that are easier to transport, hide, and quickly launch, CNN reports. "This is the North Koreans showing us, or at least portraying, that their solid-fuel missile program is improving at a steady rate," said David Schmerler, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

In the photograph, a diagram for a "Pukguksong-3" missile appears to show the latest model of the country's Pukguksong series and is "definitely new" in the words of Michael Duitsman, who is also a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Another harder-to-see diagram appears to show a new Hwasong missile.

Both North Korean missiles are solid-fuel projectiles, as are all ballistic missiles owned by the United States and Russia, CNN reports. "Solid-fuel missiles are much faster to deploy ... a solid fuel missile is always fueled so all they have to do is drive it to the place they want to launch it," Duitsman told CNN. "It's much easier to put into action, much harder to catch before it launches because they're a lot less in terms of launch preparations that could be done."

The release of photos with missile diagrams in the background is no accident, with "the North ... trying to tell the world that its re-entry and solid-fuel technologies are no longer experimental but have reached the stage of mass production," defense analyst Kim Dong-yub of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University told The New York Times. "Though whether that's credible is another matter." Jeva Lange

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