Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 17, 2018

Kathryn Krawczyk
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


CIA reportedly concludes Saudi government ordered Khashoggi hit

The CIA has "high confidence" that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, drawing upon evidence from a phone call between bin Salman's brother and Khashoggi, officials first told The Washington Post. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 17 Saudis "involved in" Khashoggi's murder earlier this week, but this is furthest the U.S. has gone toward implicating Saudi Arabia for the crime, especially considering bin Salman is close with President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Saudi Arabia once said the murder was a predetermined rogue operation, but shifted to say it was a random killing when announcing charges against 11 alleged perpetrators earlier this week. A spokeswoman for America's Saudi consulate said the CIA's claims in its "purported assessment are false." [The Washington Post, The New York Times]


Democrat Stacey Abrams admits defeat in Georgia gubernatorial race

Democrat Stacey Abrams on Friday said that it was not possible for her to win the gubernatorial race in Georgia, admitting defeat against Republican Brian Kemp, who had already declared victory in the hotly contested race. On Election Day, the race was too close to call, and Abrams accused Kemp of suppressing votes as Georgia's secretary of state in an effort to become governor. "I acknowledge that [Kemp] will be certified the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial elections," Abrams said, saying her remarks were not a concession speech. "Concession means to acknowledge an act is right, true or proper. ... I cannot concede that." She said she would file a federal lawsuit to contest the "gross mismanagement" of the election. [NPR]


Camp Fire spreads pollution as more than 1,000 remain missing

After burning for more than a week, the Camp Fire has left 71 dead and more than 1,000 missing throughout Northern California. Firefighters have contained 50 percent of the blaze as of Friday night, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. The fire has also unleashed some of the dirtiest air in the world to cities hundreds of miles away, leaving air quality as poor as cities in China and India. It’s nearly impossible to navigate the fog surrounding the fire, and hospital workers say reports of respiratory complications have surged. Nearly 200 miles away in San Francisco, the city's iconic trolleys have been pulled from the streets and residents have taken to wearing respiratory masks. [The New York Times, CBS News]


Trump reportedly won't stop questioning Pence's loyalty

President Trump in recent weeks has been asking his aides and advisers if they think Vice President Mike Pence is loyal so often, they are getting "alarmed," advisers tell The New York Times. While Trump has not explicitly told his advisers he wants to drop Pence in 2020, they reportedly think he may be growing "irritated" with the vice president. Aides apparently continue to tell Trump that Pence is loyal, and Trump did reaffirm that Pence would be on his 2020 ticket at a press conference last week. Instead, the Times suggests these ongoing questions could stem from how Trump is reportedly considering replacing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly with Pence's Chief of Staff Nick Ayers. White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley later said Trump "absolutely supports the vice president." [The New York Times]


Education Department moves to revamp campus sexual assault policy

The Department of Education on Friday revealed its plan to bolster the rights of college students accused of sexual assault. The new policy upends Obama-era enforcement of Title IX, which was meant to strengthen the power of sexual assault victims, in favor of what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called "a fair grievance process" that includes a "presumption of innocence" for the accused. Colleges used to have to investigate any reported "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," but the new policy redefines sexual harassment as conduct "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive" that it disrupts a student's learning environment. Critics say this will lead to fewer legitimate sexual assault claims receiving proper investigations. The proposal now enters a 60-day comment period. [Department of Education, NPR]


Trump-appointed judge restores press pass for CNN's Jim Acosta

CNN reporter Jim Acosta returned to the White House on Friday after a judge mandated President Trump's administration restore his press pass. The White House revoked Acosta's hard pass after a contentious exchange with Trump last week, prompting a lawsuit from CNN. But Judge Timothy J. Kelly, who was appointed by President Trump, said the White House did not provide Acosta with due process in its decision. The suit hasn't been completely decided, but the judge did grant CNN's request for a temporary restraining order that will allow Acosta to return to work. The judge also said the White House could still move again to revoke the pass if it provides Acosta with due process. Several media organizations, including Fox News, said earlier this week they would file amicus briefs in support of CNN's claim. [CNN, The Washington Post]


Census citizenship question will head to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has opted to hear arguments over President Trump's administration's decision to add a question of citizenship to the 2020 census, despite the controversial question already undergoing a trial in New York. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the addition in March, originally saying the Justice Department ordered the move. Emails later showed other White House officials directed the addition, including former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon. Several state attorneys general then challenged the census question in court. Last month, the Supreme Court refused to allow a deposition of Ross in the New York case. The question has faced criticism from advocates who say undocumented people will avoid answering the census out of fear, leading to undercounts. [The Washington Post, NPR]


North Korea claims it's preparing an 'ultramodern tactical weapon'

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended an inspection of what state media there described Friday as an "ultramodern tactical weapon." This is the first time North Korea has publicly announced a weapons test since November 2017. This does not appear to be a nuclear device or a long-range missile, seeing as the country previously said it would suspend its nuclear and missile tests. A military expert told CBS News that a "tactical weapon" in North Korea would refer to a "weapon aimed at striking South Korea, including U.S. military bases," while a South Korean government official told CNN that it's likely a "multiple rocket launcher." Another expert told CNN it's probably not a missile, as South Korea would have detected that. The report comes as President Trump plans for a second summit with Kim in 2019. [CNN, CBS News]


Trump awards Medal of Freedom to 7 recipients

President Trump on Friday awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian commendation, to late musician Elvis Presley, late baseball star Babe Ruth, NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, former NFL player and Minnesota state Justice Alan Page, and philanthropist Miriam Adelson. Critics pointed out that Adelson and her husband, Sheldon Adelson, are billionaires who donated substantially to Trump's campaign in 2016, though other presidents have also given the medals in ways that appeared to be politically motivated. Scalia's widow, Maureen, accepted his award on his behalf. Trump played part of a Presley song during the ceremony, and called all the recipients "extraordinary." [The New York Times, ABC News]


Screenwriter William Goldman dies at 87

Award-winning screenwriter William Goldman has died at 87, Deadline and The Washington Post report. Goldman reportedly died Thursday night at his home in Manhattan; no cause of death has yet been released, although Deadline notes he had been in ill health for some time. After beginning his career as a novelist, Goldman successfully branched out into Hollywood, going on to win two Oscars for writing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men. He also wrote the screenplay for The Stepford Wives, Marathon Man, The Princess Bride, Misery, and more. In his book about screenwriting, he famously reached the conclusion that in Hollywood, "nobody knows anything." Goldman is survived by two children. [Deadline, The Washington Post]

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