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March 20, 2018
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After spending a decade at Fox News as a strategic analyst, retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters did not renew his contract, and he sent colleagues a farewell email detailing all of the issues he has with the network, which he calls a "propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration."

Peters, who often appeared on Fox as a vocal critic of former President Barack Obama's foreign policy, wrote in his email that he believes Fox News is "assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed."

The network once provided "a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices," he said, but now, primetime hosts like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson "dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller."

In a statement, Fox News said Peters is "entitled to his opinion despite the fact that he's choosing to use it as a weapon in order to gain attention. We are extremely proud of our top-rated primetime hosts and all of our opinion programing." Read Peters' entire email at BuzzFeed News. Catherine Garcia

7:20 a.m. ET

The high-profile Senate race in Texas is gathering steam with a Tuesday night debate in San Antonio between Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Democratic challenger Rep. Beto O'Rourke, and President Trump set the date Monday for his promised rally with Cruz in Houston — Oct. 22 in the 10,000-seat NRG Arena. And also Monday, the independent Fire Ted Cruz PAC released a new ad from Austin director Richard Linklater, once more featuring actor Sonny Carl Davis. Only this time, he was talking about hamburgers.

Davis started with the Cruz campaign's odd attack on O'Rouke as a "Triple Meat Whataburger liberal." "What does that even mean, Ted?" he asked. "I mean, everybody I know in Texas likes Whataburger." But that was nothing compared with Davis looking pained at Canadian-born Ted Cruz professing his love for White Castle burgers: "There's not a White Castle within 900 miles of Texas, Ted. Maybe up in Canada, huh? But not in Texas."

Fire Ted Cruz is not affiliated with the O'Rourke campaign. This ad, like Linklater's last Sonny Carl Davis spot, is not exactly what you'd call issues-oriented, but it's arguably slightly less ridiculous than some of the attacks on O'Rourke from Cruz and his campaign. Early voting in Texas starts Monday. Peter Weber

6:21 a.m. ET

Turkish crime scene investigators spent nine hours searching the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on Monday night and Tuesday morning, gathering evidence in the disappearance of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A team of about 10 Turkish investigators left the consulate at 5 a.m., followed 90 minutes later by a Turkish prosecutor and, a little later, a Saudi team, Reuters reports. The Turkish investigators carted away soil samples, a metal door from the garden, and other forensic evidence.

Turkish officials, who say they have proof that a Saudi team murdered and dismembered Khashoggi when he visited the consulate for marriage-related paperwork on Oct. 2, acknowledged the difficulty of finding useful evidence 13 days after the alleged crime.

The Saudis agreed to let Turkey inspect the consulate only after Saudi King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke Sunday. Still, "hours before the Turkish forensic team arrived, journalists photographed a cleaning crew entering the consulate, hauling buckets, mops, and what appeared to be bottles of cleaning solution," The Washington Post reports. "When the Turkish investigators entered the consulate, some wearing white protective gear, they 'smelled chemicals had been used,' according to two officials in contact with the investigators."

Also Tuesday morning, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Riyadh for meetings with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the behest of President Trump. The Saudis, who have denied involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, are now planning to claim he was accidentally killed during a botched interrogation by a Saudi intelligence operative dispatched by the crown prince to question the mildly critical journalist or spirit him to Saudi Arabia, according to reports in The New York Times and CNN. Some U.S. officials fear the Turks will play along in exchange for Saudi loans. Peter Weber

5:14 a.m. ET

On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released a DNA test showing she almost certainly has some distant Native America ancestry, as her family has long recounted in lore. "Now, some people don't believe that, and his name is Donald Trump." Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. He played some of President Trump's "Pocahontas" taunts, including the time he said he used the slur with affection. "See, it may be racist, but it's affectionate, because Trump has great affection for racism," Colbert joked.

Warren is pushing back with her "fact squad," and Colbert laughed. "You know you're a Democratic Harvard professor when that's the toughest name you could think of. Was 'dork brigade' taken?" Anyway, on Monday, the "fact squad" released the DNA test and accompanying video tackling the Native American ancestry question head-on. "You heard them right: This test accurately reveals, with a high confidence, that Elizabeth Warren is running for president," Colbert deadpanned. Trump shrugged off the results, asking, "Who cares?" "You care!" Colbert said. "You're literally the only person who cares."

Trump cares so much he once offered $1 million to Warren's favorite charity if she proved she was part Native American, predicting she'd refuse the offer. "Well, Mr. President, she didn't say no, she said yes — but rumor has it you don't know the difference," Colbert said. In any case, when reporters confronted Trump with his $1 million pledge, he first denied it, then "chickened out."

Trump also denied on 60 Minutes on Sunday night that he's a denier — of climate change, of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's brutality, of being a baby. Colbert puckishly found that last denial plausible: "Yes, he's not a baby, because a baby wets his own bed."

Colbert had his own questions for Trump, so he stepped into the 60 Minutes interview and got the answers he wanted — and gave not-baby Trump the pink baby blanket he apparently needed. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:00 a.m. ET
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If campaign money is speech, as Republicans have argued, Democrats simply have more to say leading up to the 2018 midterms.

At least 60 House Democratic candidates raised more than $1 million in the third quarter, from July to Sept. 30, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Monday night, ahead of a midnight Federal Election Commission filing deadline. Eight of those Democrats raised more than $3 million apiece, a huge number for a midterm election. "Democrats outraised their Republican opponents in 32 of the closest 45 House races by a total margin of $154 million to $108 million since November 2016," The New York Times reports. Overall, House Democratic candidates have raised $252 million this election versus $172 million by House Republican candidates.

Democratic Senate candidates in the nine most competitive races have raised $212 million, versus $164 million by their Republican rivals, The Washington Post reports, and the Democrat has outraised the Republican in each of those nine races — including vulnerable Democrats like Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.). In Texas, Rep. Beto O'Rourke raised a record $38.1 million in the third quarter, trouncing incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz's $11.6 million.

The Democrats' fundraising is being driven by donations of $200 or less — ActBlue, which steers online donations to Democratic candidates, says it raised $385 million in the third quarter, with an average contribution of $49. Republican super PACs are making up some of the GOP shortfall — casino magnate Sheldon and Miriam Adelson gave at least $32 million to Republican committees and PACs in September alone, raising their total this cycle to $87 million, with more coming — and President Trump has been a fundraising powerhouse for GOP candidates.

"You don't buy your way into office, but this kind of money makes victory possible in scenarios where it otherwise might not have been," campaign finance expert Bob Biersack tells The New York Times. And this quarter "is probably going to be the largest quarter in the history of midterms," thanks to small-dollar donations to Democrats. Peter Weber

2:23 a.m. ET
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In their one and probably only debate, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Democratic challenger Abigail Spanberger clashed Monday night over health care, immigration, and taxes, but one person not onstage sure got a lot of mentions. And it wasn't President Trump, whose tenure has helped turn Virginia's reliably Republican 7th congressional district into a tossup race.

"While Trump looms large over the race, the president was mentioned just once during the 90-minute forum," The Washington Post recounts. "The name on Brat's lips was that of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). ... Brat referred so often to 'the Nancy Pelosi liberal agenda' that the phrase started drawing laughs. At one point he acknowledged that he'd said it 'a million times.' (More conservative estimates put the mentions at around 25.)" HuffPost congressional reporter Matt Fuller placed the number at 21, and he said it sounded like this:

With each mention of Pelosi, the audience seemed to groan and laugh harder as Brat tried again ― and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again ― to tie Spanberger to Pelosi. On one instance, the groans from the audience were so loud that Brat asked for additional time to speak, and on another interjection, he had to restart his point, beginning once again with Pelosi's name. [HuffPost]

Spanberger, a former CIA officer, didn't mention Trump at all, but she did remind Brat he is running against her, not Pelosi. And after Brat blamed her for a misleading ad run by another Democrat and misrepresented several of her positions, Spanberger said she wasn't sure Brat knew "which Democrat he's running against." Spanberger, who has said repeatedly she wouldn't support Pelosi for House speaker, raised nearly $3.6 million last quarter, three times Brat's haul and a 7th district record. Peter Weber

1:58 a.m. ET
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Michigan's Republican Senate candidate, businessman John James, said on Monday "there's no excuse" for his campaign running a television ad that inadvertently showed a swastika.

The swastika appeared on a bulletin board in a school hallway, which was shown while James spoke off-screen about failing schools, The Associated Press reports. James said the ad used stock footage, and he had to "admit this was a terrible error on our part. We should have caught this error and we didn't, and there's no excuse." James, who is running against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), said he is "responsible for everything that our team does and fails to do, and I will do everything in my power to make sure this never, ever happens again."

James is black and said he does "not approve of hatred or bigotry in any form," and anyone saying otherwise is proof of "how low people are willing to go." Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy group, brought attention to the imagery on Monday, and executive director Lonnie Scott told AP not having a swastika in an ad should "be a pretty basic thing to figure out," adding that this shows "James' lack of preparedness for the United States Senate." Catherine Garcia

1:04 a.m. ET
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An Idaho Fish and Game commissioner sent in his resignation letter on Monday, following intense criticism over photos he shared showing him smiling over dead animals.

Blake Fischer took the photos while in Namibia with his wife, and sent them to several former commissioners in a Sept. 17 email. In his letter to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R), Fischer wrote that it was "poor judgments" that led him to "sharing photos of a hunt in which I did not display an appropriate level of sportsmanship and respect for the animals I harvested." Fischer, whose appointment to the commission was set to expire in 2022, also said he did not want the photos to "harm the integrity and ethic" of the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

In the email, Fischer bragged that his wife "wanted to watch me and 'get a feel' of Africa. So I shot a whole family of baboons. I think she got the idea quick." He included photos from the trip showing him grinning while standing above the bodies of different animals. Several former commissioners called Fischer out on the images, including Keith Stonebraker, who told NBC News the email was "nauseating" and the photos "flew in the face" of ethical hunting standards. "It would be the same as going out and killing fawns," he said. "I thought, 'Why in the world would anybody want to kill a family of baboons?' It just made no sense at all." Catherine Garcia

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