Over Easter weekend, CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a covert visit to North Korea on behalf of President Trump and met with Kim Jong Un, two people with direct knowledge of the trip told The Washington Post.
Pompeo's top-secret visit with the North Korean leader was an effort to lay the groundwork for a summit between Trump and Kim regarding North Korea's nuclear weapons program, the Post reports. The meeting was held soon after Trump nominated Pompeo to be secretary of state, replacing Rex Tillerson, and about a week later, U.S. officials said the government had directly confirmed that Kim was willing to discuss possible denuclearization.
Trump hinted on Tuesday that something major had happened, telling reporters the U.S. and North Korea held direct talks "at extremely high levels." He also said he'd like to meet with Kim by early June, and there are five locations — none in the United States — under consideration to host the summit. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are set to meet next week, and Trump said "they do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war." North and South Korea are still technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice. Catherine Garcia
Saudi forensic specialist told witnesses to listen to music while he dismembered Khashoggi, audio reportedly proves
New horrifying details are emerging about the evidence Turkey claims to have in the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Turkish officials reportedly shared with the United States details of an audio recording that suggests Khashoggi was killed minutes after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The audio reportedly includes the voice of Salah Al Tabiqi, a Saudi forensic specialist, who tells others in the room to listen to music while he dismembers Khashoggi.
Audio leaked by a Turkish newspaper also suggests Khashoggi had his fingers cut off and was beheaded, and that the Saudi consul general told operatives to "do this outside," The New York Times reports. "You will put me in trouble," he reportedly said.
The United States is awaiting the completion of a Saudi investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance. The journalist arrived at the consulate earlier this month and has not been heard from since. Saudi Arabia's government has denied any knowledge of what happened to him, but Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he is expanding the probe to find details.
President Trump seems to be leaning toward believing Saudi officials' denials; on Tuesday he compared accusations that they were involved in Khashoggi's death to the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Both, he said, are cases of being considered "guilty until proven innocent." Pompeo, after speaking with Saudi leaders Tuesday, said he did not yet "want to talk about any of the facts." Brendan Morrow
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn't "want to talk about any of the facts" regarding the disappearance of Jamal Khoshoggi.
The U.S.-based Saudi journalist hasn't been seen since he entered Turkey's Saudi Arabian consulate on Oct. 2, prompting a meeting between Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. Before Pompeo left Riyadh on Wednesday after the meeting, a reporter asked him if the Saudis had indicated whether Khashoggi was "alive or dead."
"I don't want to talk about any of the facts," Pompeo responded, and the Saudis "didn't want to either." Instead, the Saudis just want "the opportunity to complete this investigation" into Khashoggi's disappearance, Pompeo said, adding that it is "reasonable" to let them do so.
NEW: Asked if Saudi officials told him whether Jamal Khashoggi is alive, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo says, "I don't want to talk about any of the facts. They didn't want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation." https://t.co/6kUJMhaVWn pic.twitter.com/foiPJnbUwM
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) October 17, 2018
Few details have emerged from Pompeo's meetings with bin Salman and Saudi King Salman. But Pompeo and bin Salman apparently did make a joint call to President Trump, in which bin Salman "totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish consulate," Trump tweeted Tuesday. Turkish officials reportedly have evidence that Saudi operatives killed Khashoggi, but Trump has pushed to presume Saudi Arabia's innocence until the investigation is complete. Kathryn Krawczyk
Trump reportedly inflated sales figures in business deals, worked with brokers tied to Russian mafia
President Trump apparently needed more than a cash boost from his father to create his booming real estate business.
He and the Trump Organization also worked with "accused money launderers, alleged funders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and a felon who slashed someone in the face with a broken margarita glass" in recent decades to profit off real estate projects around the world using "deceptive practices," an investigation from ProPublica and WNYC revealed on Wednesday.
In the past, the Trump Organization has claimed it wasn't deeply involved with these sketchy characters. Putting the Trump name on a project with questionable partners was just for marketing purposes, and the Trump Organization wasn't actually developing these buildings, it explained. But the ProPublica probe seems to reveal otherwise — and also alleges the Trump family attracted investors and buyers with false sales and ownership figures.
In one of a dozen examples, Trump told a Florida newspaper in 2005 he had a "substantial stake" in a tower being built in Tampa. "In reality, Trump had no ownership stake in the project," ProPublica writes. In another, Ivanka Trump told Portfolio she "sold over 90 percent" of a 1,000-unit building in Panama. Three months later, just 79 percent of the units were gone — and some of them were sold, for lower rates than she claimed, by a broker with ties to the Russian mafia. The project eventually went bankrupt and was stripped of its Trump name.
"These statements weren't just the legendary Trump hype; they misled potential buyers and investors about the viability of the developments," ProPublica and WNYC explain. And when the projects failed, as they often did, the Trumps reportedly still profited before distancing themselves from the failures.
Many of Woody Allen's past collaborators have distanced themselves from him, but at least one has now come to his defense.
Javier Bardem, who starred in Allen’s 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, said at the Lumière Film Festival this week that the filmmaker is a “genius” and that he'd “work with him tomorrow," Variety reported Wednesday. He also warned that "public accusations are very dangerous."
Allen's adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, has accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1992 when she was seven years old. Allen denies the allegation, and New York State's Department of Social Services at the time said they found "no credible evidence" to support it, per The New York Times. Farrow stood by her claim in 2014, and her brother, investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, has said his sister's allegation is credible. Although the claim against Allen has been public knowledge for years, the #MeToo movement has spurred many actors who have worked with him to publicly announce they would not do so again, including Michael Caine, Colin Firth, and Greta Gerwig.
Bardem, however, equates this to a "public lynching" of Allen, writes The Hollywood Reporter. He says that if Allen were found guilty in a court of law, things would be different, but for now, "nothing has changed."
Whether Bardem would actually have the chance to work with Allen again remains to be seen, however. The director's latest movie may not be released at all, as several cast members have expressed regret about working on it and donated their salaries to charity. The New York Post reports that Allen has yet to secure financing for any future movies. Brendan Morrow
President Trump appears to be hoping Texas voters have forgotten about the 2016 Republican primaries.
On Twitter Wednesday, the president expressed his support for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after watching his debate with Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke, saying that Cruz has actually "long had my Strong Endorsement!"
This comment seems to raise some questions about how Trump defines "long." Trump famously gave the Texas senator the nickname "Lyin' Ted" back in 2016, accused his father of being involved in the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy, and tweeted out a picture of his wife while threatening to "spill the beans" about her, per CNN. Their feud was even more vicious than that of typical political rivals. Cruz called Trump a "sniveling coward" and refused to endorse him when he spoke at the Republican National Convention, prompting viewers to boo him off the stage.
Congressional Republicans are once again distancing themselves from a shocking tweet made by President Trump.
After Trump referred to adult film star Stormy Daniels as "
Several other GOP members of Congress have also criticized Trump for this comment against Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) responded to the tweet by saying, "that's not the way men act," while Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) said that the insult was "unbecoming of any man, let alone the POTUS." Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), typically an ardent Trump defender, felt the tweet went too far, saying that although Trump may be "a street fighter," he's "also the president." Watch Ryan's comments to CBS below. Brendan Morrow
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) October 17, 2018
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) "single biggest regret of my time in Congress," he told Bloomberg News on Tuesday, is "our failure to address the entitlement issue." McConnell said that the mushrooming federal deficit, which the Treasury Department just said grew to $779 billion last fiscal year — 77 percent higher than when McConnell became majority leader in 2015 — is "very disturbing," but he blamed Medicare and Social Security spending, not the $1.5 trillion tax cut he steered through last year.
"I think it's pretty safe to say that entitlement changes, which is the real driver of the debt by any objective standard, may well be difficult if not impossible to achieve when you have unified government," McConnell said. Because cutting Social Security and Medicare are politically toxic, he added, it will be "very difficult to do entitlement reform, and we're talking about Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid," while Republicans run everything. While top GOP lawmakers have recently proposed cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to shrink the deficit, Democrats reiterated Tuesday that they won't be on board if they win one or both houses of Congress.
When advocating for the tax cuts last December, McConnell predicted they would at least pay for themselves due to stronger growth. The White House blamed the ballooning deficits on stagnant tax revenue and higher spending. "Business tax revenue fell sharply in the first nine months of this year because tax rates were cut under last year's law," The Washington Post notes. "McConnell blamed the recent run-up in the deficit on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but there haven't been policy changes in those programs to explain the major run-up in the debt in the past two years. The bigger changes have instead been bipartisan agreements to remove spending caps on things such as the military, and last year's tax cut." Peter Weber