Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 20, 2018

Bonnie Kristian
Jamal Khashoggi
Metafora Production/The Associated Press


Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi died in consulate

Saudi Arabia on Saturday conceded missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi died inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as Turkey has alleged. "Discussions that took place between [Khashoggi] and the persons who met him ... led to a brawl and a fist fight ... which led to his death," said Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb. "The investigations are still underway, and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested." Riyadh provided no evidence to support this account. President Trump told reporters Friday night he found the explanation credible, calling it "a big step." "Saudi Arabia has been a great ally," he said. "What happened is unacceptable." [The New York Times, Al Jazeera]


Turkey questioning Saudi consulate staff to continue Khashoggi investigation

Turkish officials are questioning staff at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, continuing their investigation into the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkey has not accepted Saudi Arabia's "fist fight" explanation for Khashoggi's killing, claiming to possess an audio recording of his final moments. "Turkey will reveal whatever had happened," Omer Celik of Istanbul's ruling party told Turkish state media. "Nobody should ever doubt about it. We are not accusing anyone in advance, but we don't accept anything to remain covered." Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday Turkey will share evidence after completing its probe. [The Associated Press, ABC News]


Trump slams migrants, Democrats at Arizona rally

President Trump targeted his ire at migrants who want to come to the United States and the Democratic Party at a campaign rally in Arizona Friday night. Referring to the caravan of an estimated 4,000 people traveling on foot from Honduras to the U.S. border, Trump said there are "some bad people in that group," adding, "This country doesn't want them." He claimed "cuckoo" Democrats want to give illegal immigrants the right to vote (polling shows a majority of Americans in both major parties oppose this), along with "free welfare, free health care, and free education" and a luxury car. [The Washington Post, NBC News]


U.S.-South Korean military exercise canceled

The U.S. and South Korea on Friday canceled plans for a major joint military exercise previously scheduled for December. "Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo decided to suspend Exercise Vigilant Ace to give the diplomatic process [with North Korea] every opportunity to continue," said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White. She also reported Japan was consulted before the decision was made. North Korea has long complained of such exercises, calling them "war games." President Trump agreed to suspend some exercises while denuclearization talks proceed. [CNN, The Washington Post]


DOJ charges Russian woman for U.S. political interference

A Russian woman who worked for a Russian oligarch-funded project to conduct "information warfare against the United States" was charged Friday by the Justice Department. Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova allegedly spread content online that sought to fan the flames of "political intensity through supporting radical groups" and inciting racial tension. Separately, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said U.S. intelligence officials haven't seen evidence foreign countries are working to interfere in any specific race in the upcoming midterms, though they "may seek to influence voter perceptions." [Department of Justice, The Daily Beast]


Alaska governor suspends re-election campaign

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) announced Friday he and Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson will not continue their re-election campaign. "With more time, I am confident that Val and I could deliver a message and a campaign that could earn a victory in this election," he said. But "in the time remaining, I believe we cannot win a three-way race." Davidson took office Tuesday after former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott (D) resigned over "inappropriate comments." Walker, a former Republican, endorsed Democrat Mark Begich against Republican Mike Dunleavy. [CNN, The Hill]


Nearly 500 women accuse former USC doctor of sexual misconduct

University of Southern California officials said Friday the school is prepared to pay a $215 million settlement to women who have accused a former university gynecologist of sexual misconduct. Dr. George Tyndall has been accused of misconduct by nearly 500 women, 93 of whom came forward Friday. Many of the women are suing USC for its handling of the alleged abuse, which dates to the 1980s. Allegations against Tyndall first became public earlier this year; they include making inappropriate remarks, groping, and taking pictures of patients' genitals. Tyndall has denied the allegations. He was suspended in 2016 and resigned in 2017. [Los Angeles Times, HuffPost]


Dozens killed in Indian train accident

At least 60 people were killed and dozens more injured when a speeding train plowed into a crowd of people watching fireworks at a religious festival in northern India Friday night. Eyewitnesses say the victims did not hear the train coming over the booms of the fireworks display, and the train reportedly did not blow its whistle before striking the crowd. Locals say festival attendees sit on the tracks to watch the show every year. "Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar," tweeted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "The tragedy is heart-wrenching." [ABC News, BBC News]


Remains of 63 infants found in Detroit funeral home

A week after the remains of 11 babies were found in the ceiling of a shuttered Detroit funeral home, another 63 bodies of infants were discovered in a separate funeral home in the city. So far, police say there is no apparent connection between the two facilities. The second funeral home has now been closed as well. "This is deeply disturbing," said Detroit Police Chief James Craig. "I have never seen anything like this." Investigators are working to determine the identities of the infants as well as why they were not handled appropriately. [Reuters, Detroit Free Press]


Voter turnout in upcoming midterms may be highest in 50 years

Early voting has surged in some states, analysts reported Friday, foreshadowing a possible turnout of between 45 and 50 percent of eligible voters in November's midterm elections. That would be the highest midterm figure since at least 1970, when turnout hit 47 percent, and could possibly be the highest since 1966, when turnout was 49 percent. This is a significant turnaround from the 2014 midterms, when just 36 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, the worst showing since World War II. Turnout was also way up in primary elections earlier this year; about 37 million people participated in House primaries, compared to 24 million four years ago. [Talking Points Memo, NPR]

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