June 29, 2017

Last week, through a series of decrees, Saudi King Salman promoted his favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman, to crown prince, demoting his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who had been interior minister and counterterrorism czar as well as crown prince, and removing him from the royal line of succession. Now, Nayef has been confined to his palace in Jidda, as a precautionary measure to protect Mohammed bin Salman, 31, from internal challenge, The New York Times reports, citing four current and former U.S. officials and Saudis close to the royal family.

A senior official at the Foreign Ministry told the Times that the accounts of Nayef being confined to his palace are "baseless and false," but the Times' sources say the restrictions are not only real, but also extend to other family members:

The restrictions have also been imposed on Mohammed bin Nayef's daughters, according to a former American official who maintains ties to Saudi royals. A married daughter was told that her husband and their child could leave their home while she had to stay, the former official said. One Saudi close to the royal family said the new restrictions had been imposed almost immediately after Mohammed bin Salman's promotion. After the announcement, Mohammed bin Nayef returned to his palace in Jidda to find that his trusted guards had been replaced by guards loyal to Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Saudi and a former American official. Since then, he has been prevented from leaving the palace. [The New York Times]

To demonstrate that the changing of the line of succession is going smoothly, Saudi state media has been replaying this video of Mohammed bin Salman kissing the ring of Nayef, who wishes him well:

The palace arrest suggests that not everyone in the royal family agrees with King Salman's changes, and that the new crown prince believes public appearances might foment unrest. "It's an indication that [Mohammed bin Salman] does not want any opposition," a senior U.S. official tells the Times. "He doesn't want any rear-guard action within the family. He wants a straight elevation without any dissent — not that [Mohammed bin Nayaf] was plotting anything anyway." Peter Weber

November 21, 2018

President Trump's recent criticism of a federal judge has earned a rare response from Chief Justice John Roberts.

A judge from the Northern District of California on Tuesday blocked Trump's attempt to ban those who enter the country illegally from seeking asylum, leading the president to dismiss him as an "Obama judge." He also criticized the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals more generally for frequently ruling against him. Roberts chided Trump for the comment, saying in a statement that there are no "Obama judges," nor are there "Trump judges, Bush judges, or Clinton judges," reports The Associated Press.

"What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them," Roberts said, per CNN. He added that this "independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."

This is the first time Roberts, who was nominated to the court by former President George W. Bush, has ever offered any sort of public criticism of Trump, AP reports. Trump has not yet responded to this criticism from Roberts, who he has previously called an "absolute disaster." Brendan Morrow

November 21, 2018

George Papadopoulos just learned a lesson in thinking before you tweet.

The former Trump campaign adviser who last year pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI is set to begin a 14-day prison sentence on Nov. 26, but he's currently seeking a delay. His argument for a delay hinges on the outcome of a different case challenging the legality of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's appointment, Bloomberg reports. Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's actions during the 2016 election led to Papadopoulos' prosecution.

In response to this request, Mueller said in a filing Wednesday that it should be denied, reports Talking Points Memo. "The defendant received what he bargained for," Mueller's office wrote, "and holding him to it is not a hardship." Mueller's lawyers said there was no legal basis for a delay, and furthermore said Papadopoulos had backpedaled on his own acknowledgment of guilt.

Papadopoulos had gotten a lighter sentence after the judge said he demonstrated remorse for his crimes, but Mueller disputed this Wednesday by citing a series of tweets where Papadopoulos clearly said he regretted pleading guilty and called his sentencing a "case of entrapment." Mueller's office said the tweets "appear to be inconsistent with his stated acceptance of responsibility at sentencing." Papadopoulos has since deleted all of these tweets, which clearly did him no good, as they still show up in the filing with citations that read, "This tweet has since been removed from the defendant's public Twitter account." Brendan Morrow

November 21, 2018

The White House reportedly approved a memo that will allow troops sent to the southern border to use lethal force and conduct law enforcement operations, Military Times reported Wednesday.

The military has deployed nearly 6,000 troops to help prevent migrants from crossing into the U.S. illegally. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly authorized military personnel to perform "reasonably necessary" actions to protect border agents, including "a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search."

Kelly reportedly approved the memo because of what he deemed "credible evidence and intelligence" that suggests migrants "may prompt incidents of violence and disorder." A caravan of Central American migrants has been traveling toward the U.S. in recent weeks with the hopes of applying for asylum at the border.

The move could violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which generally forbids troops from operating like domestic law enforcement. The Trump administration has offered varying perspectives on how the military will handle its mission at the border. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said last month that "every possible action is on the table" to stop the migrants, and said that there was no intention to shoot at migrants "right now." When asked about suspending or ignoring the Posse Comitatus Act, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to detail how far the military would go in confronting migrants. Read more at Military Times. Summer Meza

November 21, 2018

Ralph is ready to break both the internet and the box office this weekend.

Ralph Breaks the Internet, Disney's animated sequel to Wreck-It Ralph, is off to a great start, taking in $3.8 million in Tuesday night previews, per The Hollywood Reporter. That's the best ever opening night for a movie that debuted during Thanksgiving week, besting Moana and Coco, which took in $2.6 million and $2.3 million respectively on the Tuesdays they first started playing. The film is currently projected to make somewhere around $70 million, which would put it below Moana's full five-day opening weekend gross of $82 million, but that number could certainly go higher. Regardless, it's set to rank as one of the best Thanksgiving week openings of all time, though Frozen's record of $93 million appears out of reach.

Were it not for Disney, it would have been Creed II that broke the Thanksgiving preview record, as the Rocky sequel also had a phenomenal Tuesday night by taking in $3.7 million, making that the second-best Thanksgiving preview night of all time. That film, which stars Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, topped its predecessor's $1.4 million preview night and is expected to take in around $50 million.

But not every studio is having a happy holiday weekend, as Lionsgate's Robin Hood is looking to be a massive bomb. It took in $800,000 in Tuesday night previews and is projected to end up with a five-day haul in the mid-teens, Deadline reports. With the film reportedly costing around $100 million, it's set to end up being one of the worst-reviewed films of the year and also one of the biggest flops as Ralph and Rocky steal its audience away. Brendan Morrow

November 21, 2018

One former federal prosecutor thinks President Trump's reported desire to order the Department of Justice to prosecute Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey is evidence enough to indict him.

Former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi told MSNBC Tuesday night that he could draft an indictment against Trump "right now." This, he said, would be on two counts, the first being "his relationship with Michael Cohen on the election fraud." He also said there's enough evidence to bring an obstruction of justice charge, which he pointed out Special Counsel Robert Mueller has the authority to do.

This came during a segment discussing the recent report from The New York Times that Trump wanted to order the Department of Justice to prosecute his political enemies, but former White House counsel Don McGahn had to warn him it could be an impeachable offense. Although Trump never officially made this request, Rossi suggested he could still be indicted for this, as it's an "attempt to obstruct justice" and is part of a "pattern." Rossi also said that what the Times report alleges is that Trump "essentially" asked McGahn to "commit a crime by obstructing justice."

Trump has submitted written answers to some of Mueller's questions but is still refusing to answer questions about obstruction of justice. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani insists Mueller has no case there, telling Axios, "I think their obstruction case, as a legal matter, doesn't exist." Watch Rossi's comments on MSNBC below. Brendan Morrow

November 21, 2018

A weed-fueled episode of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast is now responsible for the launch of an official NASA investigation.

NASA is going to review the safety practices of SpaceX next year, and The Washington Post reports that this is because of "the recent behavior" of founder Elon Musk, specifically when he smoked weed and drank whiskey on the Joe Rogan podcast in September. This, the Post reports, "rankled some at NASA's highest levels" and made them decide to "take a close look" at the company's culture.

In a statement to the Post, NASA confirmed that it would launch this probe next year to determine if SpaceX is "meeting NASA’s requirements for workplace safety, including the adherence to a drug-free environment." It will also investigate Boeing, which Musk has nothing to do with. This probe is reportedly going to last months and involve "hundreds of interviews." Rogan responded to the news on Twitter by writing, "LOL WUT."

Between this episode, Musk needing to pay a $20 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission and resign as Tesla chairman because of a two-sentence tweet, and Musk being sued by a diver he accused of being a pedophile, it's safe to say the Tesla CEO has seen better years. Brendan Morrow

November 21, 2018

After President Trump seemed to let Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman off the hook for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Congress is demanding he take further action.

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top-ranking Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have ordered an investigation into whether the Saudi crown prince was involved in the plot to murder Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate last month, ABC News reports. Trump in a statement Tuesday said that "we may never know" the facts of the case and that bin Salman may or may not have been involved, despite the fact that the CIA has reportedly determined that the crown prince ordered the murder, per CNN.

Corker has been highly critical of Trump's Tuesday statement, tweeting, "I never thought I'd see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia." Under the Global Magnitsky Act, the president has four months to respond after a congressional committee asks him to determine whether a human rights violation was committed, per The Washington Post. The Trump administration recently sanctioned 17 Saudis in response to a similar request, and now, Congress is demanding the administration not stop there, with Corker tweeting, "'Maybe he did and maybe he didn't' won’t cut it." Brendan Morrow

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