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April 14, 2018

Moscow on Saturday condemned Friday night's U.S. strikes on Bashar al-Assad regime targets in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. is "deepening a humanitarian catastrophe," while a Russian embassy statement called the attack "treacherous and insane" and a "clear and present danger to world peace" which violates international law.

Fellow Syrian ally Iran also slammed the strikes, labeling them "aggression" and "a flagrant violation of international laws and a disregard for Syria's right of national sovereignty and territorial integrity." Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he "explicitly announce[s] that the U.S. president, French president, and the British prime minister are criminals and have committed crime."

Assad himself told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani the attack has only strengthened his commitment to "crush terrorism in every inch" of Syria, referring to the rebel fighters whose territory the Syrian president is believed by the U.S. to have targeted with chemical weapons last week. Bonnie Kristian

9:56a.m.

As election officials in Florida prepare to wrap up their machine recount, a federal judge has now given voters who had their ballots thrown out due to mismatched signatures time to resolve the issue.

This decision affects 4,000 or more mail-in and provisional ballots, which were rejected because the voter's signature didn't exactly match the signature on record, reports The Washington Post. The deadline for Florida's machine recount comes on Thursday, but those whose ballots were rejected due to mismatching signatures now have until Saturday at 5 p.m. to have their ballot "cured" so their vote can still count.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is behind Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the closely-watched Senate race by around 12,000 votes, wanted the matching signature requirement waived entirely, but the judge did not allow for that. However, he said that because the deadline to resolve issues with mismatched signatures was 5 p.m. on Nov. 5, but the deadline to submit a mail-in ballot was 7 p.m. on Nov. 6, many voters weren't given time to respond if their ballots were rejected.

Scott, who leads Nelson by about 0.15 percentage points, is appealing Thursday's ruling, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Meanwhile, in the governor's race, former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) currently leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by about 34,000 votes, or .40 percentage points. Brendan Morrow

8:33a.m.

President Trump is renewing his attacks on the ongoing Russia investigation.

Trump on Twitter Thursday claimed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators are "screaming and shouting at people" and "horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want." He did not offer any evidence for this claim. He also called the investigation a "total mess" and a "disgrace to our Nation" run by people who "don't care how many lives they ruin." Trump attacked Mueller specifically, saying he "worked for Obama for 8 years."

Mueller only served as the director of the FBI for four years while Barack Obama was president. He was appointed by former President George W. Bush, and served under him for nearly eight years.

These tweets from Trump come after he appointed Matt Whitaker, who has openly criticized the investigation, as acting attorney general, and many in Congress are growing concerned that the Mueller investigation could be in jeopardy. They also follow a report that new indictments from Mueller are coming very soon. Brendan Morrow

8:10a.m.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen traveled to Donna, Texas, on Wednesday to visit some of the 5,900 active duty troops President Trump sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to counter a "caravan" of Central American migrants. "Let's have at it, young soldiers: What's on your mind?" Mattis asked one small group of Army soldiers. "Sir, I have a question," one solider said. "The wire obstacles that we've implanted along the border ... Are we going to be taking those out when we leave?"

The question drew "a few smirks from those around him," reports BuzzFeed's Vera Bergengruen. "The most visible role U.S. troops have served since they began arriving on Oct. 29 has been stringing up concertina wire, a razor wire that is notoriously hard to remove." And laying out anywhere from 22 miles to 170 miles of razor wire appears to be their primary mission. "We'll see what the secretary says, okay?" Mattis answered, pointing to Nielsen, widely tipped to be fired soon. "Right now, the mission is put them in."

The troops — like the 2,100 National Guard troops Trump sent to the border in April — won't be allowed to arrest or detain anybody and can't enforce immigration or criminal law.

Mattis described the "absolutely legal" deployment as a "moral and ethical mission" to counter illegal immigration. He said his mother — who, Bergengruen notes, Mattis previously said emigrated from Canada as an infant — "told me how hard it was to get into America. So believe me, we want legal immigration." And the deployment wasn't unprecedented, he said, citing President Woodrow Wilson sending the Army to the border in 1916 to fight "Pancho Villa's troops."

"What are the short and the long-term plans of this operation, sir?" another young soldier asked Mattis. "Short term right now, you get the obstacles in so the border patrolmen can do what they gotta do," Mattis said. "Longer term, it's somewhat to be determined." Peter Weber

8:00a.m.

Saudi Arabia has indicted 11 people in connection with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and five of them may receive the death penalty.

The Saudi public prosecutor, Saud al-Mojeb, announced the charges during a news conference Thursday, which came over a month after the journalist, who was critical of the kingdom, went missing at the Saudi consulate in Turkey, per The Washington Post. Al-Mojeb says a 15-person team was sent to the consulate to abduct Khashoggi, but when he resisted, they decided to kill him, The New York Times reports. The Saudi public prosecutor says they did so by injecting Khashoggi with an overdose of a sedative and then dismembering his body, per CNN.

After Khashoggi went missing in early October, the kingdom's narrative of events changed dramatically. At first, it said Khashoggi actually left the consulate safely, only to later say he was killed accidentally during a fistfight. Then Saudi officials suggested the killing was premeditated. Now, the public prosecutor claims the decision to kill Khashoggi was made on the spot, The New York Times reports.

Saudi Arabia also maintains that the operation was carried out without the knowledge of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, even though officials say this is unlikely, the Times reports. "It is obvious that this murder was previously planned and that the order had come from high-level authorities in Saudi Arabia," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says. Brendan Morrow

6:26a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May urged Parliament on Thursday to approve a draft Brexit deal her government had negotiated with the European Union. But before she spoke, several Cabinet ministers had resigned in protest of her deal, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, and the junior Brexit, education, and Northern Ireland ministers. Britain's pound plummeted after Raab's resignation.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called the deal a "huge and damaging failure," suggesting Labour MPs won't vote for the agreement, and with defections in May's Conservative Party, it's not clear she has the votes, endangering her tenure as prime minister. May asked lawmakers to approve the divorce deal "in the national interest," arguing that she made "the right choices, not the easy ones," and that having no deal would be worse than the agreement she reached to cleave Britain from the EU while maintaining close ties. She emphasized that this is just a draft, while lawmakers jeered and called on her to resign.

May got a majority of her Cabinet to approve the agreement on Wednesday, though many of them did not look happy about it. Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on Friday, March 29, 2019. Peter Weber

5:44a.m.

In an interview with The Daily Caller on Wednesday, President Trump bizarrely claimed that you have to show some sort of voter ID to buy a box of cereal and laid out a novel conspiracy theory to explain Republican losses via voter fraud: "When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in, and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It's really a disgrace what's going on." There's not a lot comedians can add to that, but they gave it a try on Wednesday's late-night shows.

That's "a for-real quote from the president of the United States," Jimmy Kimmel reminded viewers on Kimmel Live. "People go to their cars to put on different hats? Our polls are being infested with a team of masters of disguise!" He went on to mock Florida and also its junior senator, Marco Rubio, whose own theory of voter fraud invented some new football terminology.

"That's right, President Trump accused people of voting illegally by changing clothes in the cars and getting back in line — or in Florida's case, putting on a shirt and getting back in line," Seth Meyers joked on Late Night. "I swear our president thinks in cartoons. He probably thinks the Village People is one guy." He suggested that Trump might actually be the person in disguise in the news, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

4:55a.m.

President Trump is reportedly angry that his aides didn't warn him skipping a Veterans Day memorial at an American military cemetery in France would make him look bad, and he's under fire for his promotion of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "We're learning some interesting stuff about Whitaker's past," including his judicial nomination criteria, as outlined during his 2014 unsuccessful run for a Senate seat in Iowa.

"In the opinion of the current attorney general of the United States, if you're not a Christian, you won't be a good judge," Colbert summarized. "But it's right there in the Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, yada, yada, yada, what would Jesus do?" Whitaker is also apparently "steeped" in time travel and Bigfoot. "Before we go any further, I just want to say that there's serious debate over whether Whitaker's appointment is unconstitutional and might obstruct justice," Colbert said, "but tonight, daddy don't give a damn — I want to talk about time travel and Bigfoot man."

This all had to do with the patent marketing company Whitaker worked for (before the FTC shut it down for scamming investors out of $26 million), and Colbert appeared more than happy to run through the details — which, to be fair, are pretty incredible — and tie it all together.

Seth Meyers had some fake facts about Whitaker at Late Night — and they still somehow look tame compared to reality.

Colbert briefly reprised his "Squatch'd" gag during his rundown of Trump's bizarre list of Medal of Freedom recipients, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

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