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April 19, 2017

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced Wednesday that he will not run for re-election in 2018. "After long consultation with my family and prayerful consideration, I have decided I will not be a candidate for any office in 2018," the House Oversight Committee chairman said in a statement Wednesday.

Chaffetz, who was elected in 2008 to represent Utah's 3rd congressional district, insisted his announcement was motivated merely by a "personal decision to return to the private sector":

For those that would speculate otherwise, let me be clear that I have no ulterior motives. I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins. I have the full support of Speaker Ryan to continue as Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. [Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), via Facebook]

Chaffetz has had a tough go of it this spring. At a town hall shortly after President Trump took office, Chaffetz faced a massive crowd of livid constituents, dissatisfied with his handling of Trump investigations. Last month, Chaffetz caught serious flak for suggesting lower-income Americans invest their money in health-care coverage rather than "getting that new iPhone that they just love."

Read Chaffetz's statement in full below. Becca Stanek

10:04p.m.

Over the last month, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has been diligently following up on leads regarding Roger Stone and whether he was in communication with WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, during the 2016 presidential election, several people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Sunday.

Stone, one of President Trump's longtime advisers, bragged during the campaign about his ability to get in touch with Assange, and predicted future leaks on Assange's website. Now, prosecutors are looking at those comments, as well as private conversations he allegedly had with associates about his connection to Assange, to determine whether he knew in advance that WikiLeaks was going to publish emails hacked from Democrats, the Post reports.

In July, the special counsel filed charges saying that Russian military intelligence officers created the online persona Guccifer 2.0 to spread the hacked emails through WikiLeaks, and used the Guccifer 2.0 Twitter account to exchange messages with Stone; he said those conversations were innocent.

Stone told the Post his only connection to WikiLeaks was through former friend Randy Credico, who had Assange on his radio show in 2016. A person familiar with the probe said Credico told Mueller's grand jury that in 2016, Stone told him he had a secret back channel to WikiLeaks. Mueller is also digging into Stone's relationship with Jerome Corsi, a conservative writer for a website centering around conspiracy theories, and whether he was the contact between Stone and WikiLeaks, the Post reports. Catherine Garcia

9:06p.m.

The Department of Health and Human Services is considering establishing under Title IX a legal definition of gender as a biological condition determined by a person's genitalia at birth, The New York Times reports.

Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive financial assistance from the federal government. The Times obtained a memo, written in the spring, that calls on several government agencies to adopt a single definition of gender "on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective, and administrable." In the memo, the department said the sex listed on a "person's birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person's sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence."

The Obama administration had loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, and if this legal definition proposed by the Trump administration is approved, an estimated 1.4 million Americans who identify as a gender other than the one they were born into may lose federal recognition.

Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, would not answer questions from the Times about the memo. During the Obama administration, he was head of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, and was upset by the administration's expansion of sex to include gender identity, the Times reports. Catherine Garcia

1:07p.m.

Members of Congress were out in force Sunday weighing in on Saudi Arabia's "fist fight" explanation of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. And while they were united in varying degrees of skepticism about Riyadh's story, lawmakers did not put forward a unified theory of how to respond.

On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) labeled the Saudi account "insulting," arguing no one "analyzing this with any type of intelligent background" would believe "a fist fight led to a dismemberment with a bone saw."

He argued for a broad rethinking of U.S.-Saudi relations, including arms sales, over Khashoggi, the war in Yemen, and Riyadh's record on religious liberty.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, on CNN explicitly accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of involvement.

Corker argued there "has to be a punishment" if MBS is implicated; on Friday, he mentioned sanctions as a possibility.

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on NBC the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. should be expelled until the matter is settled.

And Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, on ABC called for an inquiry into whether President Trump's financial ties to Saudi Arabia could be influencing his changeable response to Khashoggi's death.

Schiff said he expects Trump "to accept the crown prince's denials much as he has accepted [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's denials and [North Korean leader] Kim's denials." Bonnie Kristian

12:13p.m.

Moscow on Sunday pushed back against President Trump's Saturday night announcement that he intends to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, an arms control agreement with Russia that dates to the Reagan era.

"This would be a very dangerous step," said Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, as quoted in Russian state media. He argued the announcement is like "blackmail" ahead of National Security Adviser John Bolton's planned trip to Russia this coming week.

"Unlike our American colleagues, we understand all the seriousness of the issue and its significance for security and strategic stability," Ryabkov continued. "If the Americans continue to act as crudely  ... and unilaterally withdraw from all sorts of agreements and mechanisms, from the Iran deal to the International Postal treaty, then we'll be reduced to taking action in response, including of a military nature. But we don't want to go that far."

Trump has argued with NATO support that Russian missile tests conducted in the last decade violate the terms of the treaty. "And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we're not allowed to," he said. Bonnie Kristian

11:55a.m.

A coalition of human rights and journalism groups including Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders on Sunday called for Turkey to instigate a United Nations investigation into the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"U.N. involvement is the best guarantee against a Saudi whitewash or attempts by other governments to sweep the issue under the carpet to preserve lucrative business ties with Riyadh," said Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists. The business ties Mahoney has in mind are likely a major U.S.-Saudi arms deal President Trump has refused to cancel regardless of what happened to Khashoggi.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has already stressed the "need for a prompt, thorough, and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Khashoggi's death and full accountability for those responsible."

After denying knowledge of Khashoggi's whereabouts for two weeks, Saudi Arabia on Saturday said he died in "a brawl and a fist fight" inside the consulate. However, an unnamed senior Saudi official on Sunday told Reuters a 15-man team "overstepped their orders and quickly employed violence," in Reuters' paraphrase, accidentally killing him with a chokehold intended to smother his shouts. Bonnie Kristian

11:35a.m.

At least 18 people were killed and about 160 injured when a passenger train derailed in Taiwan on Sunday evening local time. The train was carrying 366 people, and rescue efforts continue as several dozen were trapped on board. The line runs in a coastal area and is popular with tourists; an American woman was among those hurt.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen pledged "all our strength and efforts for the rescue" in a Facebook post offering condolences for the families of the victims and cautioning against speculation as to the cause of the crash while the investigation is underway. Bonnie Kristian

10:16a.m.

Afghanistan's parliamentary election was extended for a second day Sunday after Saturday's voting was marred by violence, technical difficulties, and, in some places, polling stations that did not open at all.

This is the first such election since 2010, and it employs a biometric tracking system to avoid fraud that has not been widely tested. "More than 25 percent of the [voting] centers we observed were not opened," reported Naeem Ayubzada of Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan. "We also observed technical challenges with 32 percent of the biometric systems not working in 22 percent of the polling centers. Also, 9 percent of the centers were not equipped with the biometric system."

The Taliban, which remains powerful particularly in rural regions, has told Afghanistan's 8.8 million eligible voters to stay away from the polls, but despite these obstacles, more than 3 million voted Saturday. Bonnie Kristian

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