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September 19, 2017

President Trump threatened to "totally destroy North Korea" and recycled his Elton John-inspired nickname for leader Kim Jong Un in a speech before the United Nations on Tuesday. "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," Trump said. "The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That's what the United Nations is all about. That's what the United Nations is for. Let's see how they do."

Trump had originally branded Kim as "Rocket Man" in a tweet that The Washington Post claimed "even some of Trump's critics had to admit" was clever. Others frowned at the reference being made Tuesday in such a serious setting and framed by such chilling threats:

Watch Trump's comments below. Jeva Lange

10:11 a.m. ET

The morning after Democrat Doug Jones' stunning victory over Republican Roy Moore in the special election for Alabama's Senate seat, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) came out swinging against Stephen Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News and former White House chief strategist. Bannon stumped hard for Moore, especially in the campaign's waning days, as part of his "war" on the GOP establishment.

"This guy does not belong on the national stage. He looks like some disheveled drunk that wandered onto the political stage," King said of Bannon, speaking to CNN's Chris Cuomo. A blinking Cuomo sat in silence as King ripped into Bannon before finally interjecting: "Peter King, I know where you're from and I know you like to knuckle up every now and then, but did you just call Steve Bannon a disheveled drunk?" King replied, "No, very precise — I said he looks like one."

Aesthetics aside, King said that he didn't take nearly as much of an issue with Bannon's politics as he did his morals — or lack thereof. "He's not representing what I stand for," King said. The New York congressman claimed that Tuesday's election results were "a revulsion by people at [Bannon's] style, at his type of divisive views," adding that Bannon "encourages racial division."

While Bannon may the scapegoat de jour for Republicans like King — who were reluctant to support a candidate accused of sexually assaulting teenagers — people in the White House apparently blame Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y) for Moore's loss. Kelly O'Meara Morales

10:07 a.m. ET

Former Apprentice villain Omarosa Manigault Newman will reportedly leave her role as President Trump's director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison next month to "pursue other opportunities", the White House said Wednesday.

Manigault Newman's role in the White House has always been a bit befuddling, even to insiders. Formerly the Trump campaign's director of African-American outreach, Manigault Newman's White House tenure was most famously marked by when she brought "members of her 39-person bridal party to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for an extended wedding photo shoot," Politico reports (she was banned from posting the photos).

While unconfirmed, White House correspondent April Ryan suggested Manigault Newman left in true former-reality-TV-star fashion:

The Office of the Public Liaison — which works to promote the president's agenda — had "no organization, no calendar, nothing," as one staffer told Politico. Even Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has admitted "it's pretty safe to say the early months were not as smooth as they could have been." The AP adds that "Manigault Newman's decision comes at the start of what's expected to be a round of departures heading into the new year." Jeva Lange

9:40 a.m. ET

Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in Alabama's special Senate election Tuesday night, becoming the first Democrat to win an upper-chamber seat in the Yellowhammer State in 25 years. Jones' triumph came as a shocker in the solidly red state, where the national Democratic Party deployed a massive turnout operation to squeeze out the diverse voters necessary to propel the former prosecutor to office.

For those waking up in Alabama on Wednesday morning, local papers had a variety of stark reactions to the state's newest senator. Take a tour of a few front pages below — or see more via the Newseum here. Kimberly Alters

8:56 a.m. ET

Democrat Doug Jones' victory in Alabama on Tuesday night represents a stunning blow to President Trump, who won the state by nearly 28 points last November. Trump's favorite television program, though, is giving Republican Roy Moore's bruising loss in the Yellowhammer State the kind of spin that could give you whiplash: "This was not a referendum on Trump," one host suggested Wednesday morning. "I feel like it was a referendum on Harvey Weinstein."

Nobody else did:

It all goes to show that not everyone can be Kellyanne Conway. Watch the clip below. Jeva Lange

8:27 a.m. ET

Doug Jones, a Democrat and former federal prosecutor, beat Republican Roy Moore in Alabama's special Senate election on Tuesday night. Alabama is a solidly red state whose last elected Democrat in the Senate, Richard Shelby, switched parties in the '90s. "What went right for Jones?" asked Steve Kornacki on MSNBC Tuesday night. "Well, first of all, the answer is basically everything went right. If you're a Democrat and you're winning by 20,000 votes, a tiny margin, but you need everything to break your way."

Specifically, according to exit polls, Jones won 96 percent of black voters, and turnout was high in Alabama's "black belt." He also beat Moore among younger voters (62 percent to 36 percent), and in the counties with the two biggest universities, Auburn and University of Alabama, both of which President Trump won last year. Also, turnout was lower in strongly Republican counties, Kornacki said. "You didn't have Republicans in these counties going out and switching parties and voting Democrat, you just didn't have them coming out at all. They weren't turning out, they weren't energized, and again, in these Democratic areas, you saw the opposite."

There were 22,780 write-in votes, presumably mostly from Republicans who couldn't vote for Moore, and 91 percent of voters said the candidate's personal morality was important to their vote, versus 88 percent who said that about which party controls Congress. Jones leads by 1.5 percentage points in the unofficial tally, and Moore has not yet conceded. Peter Weber

8:13 a.m. ET
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Federal Reserve policy makers wrap up their two-day meeting on Wednesday, and they are widely expected to bump up interest rates by a quarter percent for the third time this year. The meeting is Janet Yellen's last as chair. Her successor, Fed Governor Jerome Powell, said during his recent confirmation hearing that he had "no sense of an overheating economy," suggesting openness to speeding up rate increases as long as the economy continues to strengthen and inflation remains in an acceptable zone. When the Fed releases its statement at 2 p.m., analysts will be looking for indications of how the Fed expects the GOP's proposed corporate and individual tax cuts to affect the economy and the central bank's plans for more interest rate reductions in 2018. Harold Maass

8:12 a.m. ET
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Muslim leaders in Turkey on Wednesday that "from now on" America does not have a legitimate role in the Middle Eastern peace process, The Associated Press writes. The decision follows President Trump's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move Abbas described as a "crime" and proof that America is not "fit" to act as a mediator.

A large number of U.S. allies were outspokenly against Trump's decision, including many leaders of Muslim-majority nations. America expects "the Islamic nation to remain silent," Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at the same conference. "But we will never be silent. This bullying eliminates the possibility of peace and the grounds for shared life. The U.S.'s decision is null for us."

America is already experiencing its diminished influence in the region, with next week's scheduled meeting between Abbas and Vice President Mike Pence canceled in response to the Trump administration's Jerusalem decision. That might throw a wrench in Trump's promise in September to make "the deal of the century" by reaching peace in the Middle East.

"I think we have a pretty good shot," Trump had said at the time. "Maybe the best shot ever." Jeva Lange

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