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May 17, 2017

As news of President Trump's mounting scandals broke this week, many right-leaning media outlets chose to focus instead on the apparent revelation that murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was allegedly in touch with WikiLeaks before "mysteriously" being killed. There is no concrete evidence to indicate anything fishy about Rich's murder — Washington, D.C., police say it was likely a botched attempted robbery. Still, Fox News published a "scoop" citing a "federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report … detailing the contents of Rich's computer" who claimed Rich had "made contact with WikiLeaks."

Almost immediately, Rich's family denied the story, blasting internet sleuths for unfounded conspiracy theories about Rich's death. Then Fox News' source, private investigator Rod Wheeler, told CNN that he actually had no evidence linking Rich to WikiLeaks:

Wheeler instead said he only learned about the possible existence of such evidence through the reporter he spoke to for the FoxNews.com story. He explained that the comments he made to WTTG-TV were intended to simply preview Fox News' Tuesday story. The WTTG-TV news director did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

"I only got that [information] from the reporter at Fox News," Wheeler told CNN.

Asked about a quote attributed to him in the Fox News story in which he said his "investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks," Wheeler said he was referring to information that had already been reported in the media. [CNN]

NBC News additionally reports that "local police in Washington, D.C., never even gave the FBI Rich's laptop to analyze after his murder," poking further holes in the Fox News report.

A spokesperson for Rich's family blamed outlets for publishing the unfounded rumor. Right-wing media has "shown over and over again that they are willing to lie and manipulate the facts" to further "their own political end," the spokesperson said. Jeva Lange

9:48p.m.

President Trump tried some new material out on Twitter Sunday, profanely twisting the name of one of his loudest critics, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

"So funny to see little Adam Schitt (D-CA) talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller (who is highly conflicted) was not approved by the Senate!" Trump tweeted. Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, responded with a tweet of his own: "Wow, Mr. President, that's a good one. Was that like your answers to Mr. Mueller's questions, or did you write this one yourself?"

Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last year, and did not require Senate confirmation. Schiff and others have argued that Whitaker's appointment was unconstitutional because he wasn't confirmed by the Senate, and never held a position in the Department of Justice that required Senate confirmation. Before accepting the position, Whitaker was a vocal opponent of Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election. Trump's legal team has been working on answering questions from Mueller, and on Friday, Trump claimed to have responded "very easily" to them.

Should Trump decide to backtrack from the tweet and insist that he misspelled Schiff's name on accident, it would only be his second biggest blunder of the weekend: on Saturday, while touring the fire-ravaged town of Paradise, California, he referred to it as "Pleasure," twice. Catherine Garcia

8:44p.m.

On Sunday, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida conceded his re-election bid to Republican Rick Scott, the state's current governor.

Nelson spent four decades in politics, starting in the Florida state House, then going to space on the Space Shuttle Columbia as a congressman in 1986 before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000. Scott lead Nelson by about 12,000 votes after ballots were first counted, a margin so close that it triggered a mandatory recount. After a second machine recount was finished, a manual recount was ordered late last week, and by that time Scott's lead had dropped slightly to 10,033. There were almost 8.2 million votes cast.

This was the most expensive Senate race in Florida history, the Miami Herald reports, with Scott spending more than $50 million of his own money on his campaign. Catherine Garcia

11:47a.m.

"I think the evidence is overwhelming" that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on Face the Nation Sunday. "I don't think we can sweep this under the rug."

Paul reiterated his push to end U.S. arms sales to the Saudi government in retaliation for Khashoggi's killing, decrying the administration's plan to sanction other parties involved. "I think sanctions are pretending to do something without really doing anything," the senator said.

"Most of these people [being sanctioned] are in prison, other than the crown prince," Paul continued. "We need to punish who ordered this, who's in charge. ... If the president wants to act strongly, he should cut off the arm sales" over Khashoggi and because of civilian deaths in the U.S.-supported, Saudi-led intervention in Yemen's civil war.

President Trump continues to express skepticism that MBS is implicated in Khashoggi's death, and he suggested in an interview airing on Fox Sunday he might keep a close alliance with the Saudi prince even if he is guilty of the journalist's murder. He has repeatedly resisted calls to end weapons deals with Riyadh, claiming the economic toll on the United States would be too high.

Watch Paul's comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian

11:30a.m.

President Trump discussed possible changes among his top staff, the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and more in a Fox News Sunday interview with Chris Wallace set to air at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Eastern.

"I have three or four or five positions that I'm thinking about [changing]," Trump said of his Cabinet lineup. "Of that, maybe it's going to end up being two. But I need flexibility." He suggested dissatisfaction with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in particular.

On Khashoggi's death, Trump maintained his skepticism despite Friday's report that the CIA has concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the murder. Even if MBS lied to his face, Trump said, "I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good." After all, Trump mused, "Who could really know [whether MBS lied]? But I can say this, he's got many people now that say he had no knowledge."

And asked by Wallace to grade his own presidency, Trump gave himself an A+ and inquired if a better mark is possible. "Look, I hate to do it, but I will do it," he said. "I would give myself an A+. Is that enough? Can I go higher than that?" Watch that clip below. Bonnie Kristian

11:04a.m.

Rain is forecast for areas affected by California's deadly Camp Fire in the coming week, with mixed effects anticipated.

The water may help contain the wildfire, which has claimed 76 lives and burned more than 100,000 acres. However, areas already burned lack live plant cover on uneven ground. "It'll bring much-needed relief to the firefighters and to the air quality," Patrick Burke of the National Weather Service told Reuters, "but there's a potential for dangerous mudslides wherever vegetation is burned away on slopes and hills."

More than 1,000 people are listed as missing in connection to the fire, but authorities say that list may contain duplicate names. Some of those listed as missing have called the police to say they are not in any danger, and the total missing count is expected to shrink as further information becomes available. Bonnie Kristian

9:57a.m.

Some of the Central American migrants traveling by caravan across Mexico toward the United States have reached the border city of Tijuana and stalled, uncertain of their next steps. Many have already been denied entry to the U.S. and are considering their alternatives, like accepting Mexico's offer of jobs and basic resettlement assistance.

"If we had work, we would stay. This has been very tiring," Orbelina Orellana, a mother from Honduras, told Reuters. "I cry a lot to not be able to feed them as I’d like," she said of her three children. "I just want an opportunity."

Complicating the decision is a newly hostile attitude toward migrants in Tijuana, which now has a conservative mayor who has argued "human rights should be reserved for righteous humans," a category from which he excludes the caravan migrants. Some Tijuana residents have scuffled with the migrants and plan to rally against their presence in the city Sunday. Bonnie Kristian

9:46a.m.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) is among many who have called for the resignation of a local official, Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp, for a remark in which he used the phrase "master race," a concept from Nazism.

Klemp, who is white, told consultant Triveece Penelton, who is black, they were together "part of the master race" because they both have a gap in their teeth. "I don't want you to think I'm picking on you, because we're part of the master race," Klemp said. "You know you've got a gap in your teeth. You're the master race. Don't ever forget that."

Klemp has defended the comment as a joke, and another Leavenworth County official said Klemp has repeatedly used the phrase about gapped teeth in the past. However, Leavenworth's mayor said Klemp has been more inappropriate at other public occasions and this remark demonstrates a lack of "common decency."

"Racial and discriminative language have no place in our society,' Colyer said Saturday, "and most especially when spoken by someone holding public office." Bonnie Kristian

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