December 19, 2017

Republicans plan to pass their $1.5 trillion tax plan starting Tuesday, with the House approving the bill first and the Senate clearing it later in the day or on Wednesday. No Democrats are expected to vote in favor. The tax bill would be the first big legislative win for Republicans this year. It slashes the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, lowers the top rate for the richest Americans, and gives more modest, temporary tax cuts to everyone else. By 2023, families making under $30,000 would start seeing tax increases, the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation said Monday, and by 2027, average taxes would go up for everyone earning up to $75,000. The bill is projected to add $1.46 trillion to the deficit over those same 10 years.

In a new CNN poll, 55 percent of U.S. adults oppose the tax bill while 33 percent support it, a 10-point deterioration in support from early November.

The bill's unpopularity is largely due to the perceived winners and losers in the package; 66 percent said it will do more to help the wealthy than the middle class, 37 percent said their own family would be worse off under the bill, and only 21 percent say they would be better off. The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS Dec. 14-17 among 1,001 adults, and it has a margin of sampling error of ±3.8 percentage points. Peter Weber


After journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, he was seized by 15 Saudi agents, and endured verbal abuse by Saud al-Qahtani via Skype, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Monday.

Qahtani was one of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's top aides, running his social media, and after insulting Khashoggi, he ordered the Saudi agents "bring me the head of the dog," a Turkish intelligence source told Reuters. It is unclear if he watched as Khashoggi was murdered. Qahtani was adamant about who he worked for, tweeting last summer, "Do you think I make decisions without guidance? I am an employee and a faithful executor of the orders of my lord the king and my lord the faithful crown prince."

On Friday, weeks after Khashoggi was first reported missing and after Turkey declared he had been murdered, Saudi Arabia said Khashoggi was killed in a "rogue operation," which the crown prince knew nothing about, and his death was an accident. People with knowledge of the matter said Qahtani has been chosen as one of the fall guys to protect the crown prince, and on Saturday, Saudi state media reported King Salman had fired Qahtani and four others involved in the operation. Catherine Garcia


Former President Barack Obama is sticking to one message this midterm season: Just vote.

Speaking at a Las Vegas rally for Democrats on the Nevada ballot on Monday, Obama was particularly focused on Nevada's tight Senate race between incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D). The latest polls show Heller an average of just 1.7 points over Rosen, per RealClearPolitics, and the race is vital for Democrats' hope of flipping the Senate this fall.

But Obama also emphasized the importance of down-ballot races. "If all it took was being president, shoot, I would've solved everything," he said, reports Bloomberg's Jennifer Epstein. Democrats "overcomplicate stuff" instead of just telling people to vote across the board, Obama insisted. But "staying home would be profoundly dangerous for our country" in an election year that's "more important than any in my lifetime," he continued.

Obama's rally came just two days after President Trump campaigned for Heller in Nevada, and on the same night that Trump is stumping for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in Houston. When Obama mentioned Republican leaders in Congress, it elicited boos from the audience. That prompted what has become Obama's signature rallying cry: "Don't boo, vote." Obama repeatedly chanted the mantra with the audience. Watch the moment below. Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn Krawczyk


Consider your holiday shopping done.

Texas resident Trisha Hope has published a book that's literally a compilation of President Trump's many tweets, spanning the entire first year of his presidency. It's fittingly called Just the Tweets, and it seems both of its authors are planning to attend a Texas rally on Monday night.

Hope got the idea to bind Trump's tweets in a book because her relatives weren't on Twitter, she tells KPRC, Houston's NBC affiliate. But "after publishing the tweets on a website, she realized she could just make a book," Galveston County's The Daily News writes. The first of four — or, as the Trump-supporting Hope wishes, maybe eight — expected volumes was published earlier this year.

While selling the book online, Hope quickly ran out of the book's first 500 copies. She has since sold thousands more copies while touring Trump rallies around the country, she told the Daily News. And now, it appears Hope is back in her hometown, selling the $35 books ahead of Trump's Houston rally for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday night.

Hope wasn't the first or the last person to publish Trump's tweets in a book, the Daily News points out. But at this rally, at least, Hope seems to have the hometown advantage — and what she describes as some "ornate gold foil lettering" on the cover to help it stand out. Kathryn Krawczyk


The long train of migrants marching through Central America has continued to grow as it approaches the U.S. — a local government estimated that more than 7,000 migrants are now in the group, reports The New York Times. Many have been walking for days on end to escape violence and poverty, pregnant women and young children included. The hot temperatures and exhausting journey make for what CNBC has labeled a "humanitarian crisis."

Meanwhile, President Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off aid to Honduras, where most of the migrants are from, as well as Guatemala and El Salvador, which many migrants passed through. He's also baselessly claimed there are "unknown Middle Easterners" traveling among the throngs hoping to gain asylum in the United States. Here's a glance at what the group actually looks like. Kathryn Krawczyk

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images


In the days since Saudi Arabia offered an explanation for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump's reaction has completely shifted.

The president on Monday told reporters he is "not satisfied" with what he has heard from Saudi Arabia about the death of the Washington Post columnist who went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month, reports Talking Points Memo. After first claiming they had no knowledge of the situation, Saudi Arabian officials claimed last week that Khashoggi was killed as part of a rogue operation carried out by one of the advisers to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

They also claimed that Khashoggi was only supposed to be interrogated and was killed after a fistfight broke out, but on Monday, CNN reported that surveillance footage showed a man suspected of being involved in Khashoggi's death leaving the consulate in his clothing. Turkey suggested that he traveled to Istanbul specifically to serve as a body double.

On Friday, Trump said that he found Saudi Arabia's explanation for Khashoggi's death to be credible. On Saturday, though, he suggested the Saudi government had lied in some way, saying, "their stories are all over the place," reports The Washington Post. However, he also said he wasn't convinced the crown prince was involved.

Trump's statement Monday came after he said he had spoken directly with the crown prince. He also told reporters that he wouldn't wait one month for Saudi Arabia to complete its investigation into Khashoggi's death. "That's a long time," he said, per CNN's Kaitlan Collins, adding that "there's no reason" for it to take a full month. "We're going to get to the bottom of it," he pledged. Brendan Morrow


For Wonder Woman fans, the wait for the second outing will now be even more excruciating than expected.

Star Gal Gadot revealed on Twitter Monday afternoon that Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to the hit 2017 superhero film, will now be released on June 5, 2020, after previously being scheduled for Nov. 1, 2019. Though this seven-month delay might be disappointing, Gadot presented it as a good thing, calling the June release date the movie's "rightful home." The first Wonder Woman also came out in June and became the highest-grossing film of summer 2017.

Gadot didn't give any particular reason for the delay, but mentioned that it was being moved "thanks to the changing landscape." She could possibly be referring to the fact that a November slot would force Wonder Woman 1984 to compete with the studio's October 2019 release of Joker, the standalone film about the Batman villain.

Marvel also recently removed an untitled film originally planned for July 2020 from its schedule, possibly giving Warner Bros. room to shift Wonder Woman into that new "home" date. It remains to be seen whether there are any other reasons for the delay, but some box office pundits view it as a wise move.

Wonder Woman 1984, as the title suggests, will see Diana Prince returning decades after the events of the first film amid the Cold War. Despite the fact that his character died in the first film, Chris Pine will somehow be returning. Nobody knows for sure how that's happening, but now, we'll have another seven months to speculate wildly. Brendan Morrow


Unpaid taxes and lawsuits may squash Michael Avenatti's presidential campaign before it's even started.

A California judge on Monday ordered Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, to pay $4.85 million he owes to an ex-colleague, reports The Associated Press. The ruling came just hours after The Daily Beast reported that Avenatti owes millions in back taxes.

Monday's suit came from Jason Frank, who was an attorney at Avenatti's former law firm. Frank alleged the firm "misstated its profits" and owed him far more than he was paid, AP writes. After denying Avenatti's request to bring the case to federal court, the judge ruled in Frank's favor. Neither Avenatti not a representative were at Monday's hearing, and did not argue in the case, but Avenatti did tell AP on Monday that Frank owed him $12 million "for his fraud," without explaining further.

Avenatti rocketed to fame after representing Daniels in a lawsuit against President Trump earlier this year. He's since used that platform to campaign for Democrats and float a 2020 presidential run, and often urges Trump to release his tax returns. But Avenatti's first 2020 mention was met with criticism over his finances, particularly reports of $2.4 million in then-unpaid taxes owed by his old law firm. The Daily Beast also reports Avenatti personally owes another $1.2 million to the IRS, though Avenatti says those debts are "fully paid."

Monday's ruling adds to the $10 million Avenatti's former firm was already ordered to pay Frank in May. Read more about Avenatti's reported financial straits at The Daily Beast. Kathryn Krawczyk

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