June 16, 2018

Forces from the U.S.-supported, Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen's civil war on Saturday captured the international airport in the rebel-held city of Hodeida. This is the largest battle of the war so far, as Hodeida is the only port controlled by the Houthi rebels.

The United Nations and international humanitarian organizations urged the Saudi coalition to cancel its assault on Hodeida, through which 70 percent of Yemen's food supplies arrive. The country is already wracked by cholera and on the brink of famine, so shuttering the port could lead to mass civilian starvation. Already millions of Yemenis are at risk of starving to death, and more than 100 Yemeni children die daily from starvation and preventable diseases.

Yemen imports 90 percent of its food supply, so the Saudi blockade — cast as an attempt to keep weapons away from Houthi fighters — has had deadly results. "We didn't have any food, or drink or anything, not even water," a Yemeni named Aly Omar, who lives near the captured airport, told Reuters. "I call on the United Nations and the Red Cross to open a way for us to get out of the situation we're in. Our kids, women, and elderly are stuck."

Read more on the U.S. role in Yemen's crisis here at The Week. Bonnie Kristian

8:28 a.m.

President Trump appears to be accusing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of "lying" about COVID-19 to damage his re-election prospects.

Former Love Connection and Wheel of Fortune game show host Chuck Woolery in a tweet on Sunday baselessly accused the "CDC, media, Democrats, our doctors, not all but most," of "lying" about the pandemic while claiming this is "all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election." His tweet drew plenty of outrage, but not from Trump, who on Monday morning gave it his approval with a retweet.

"There's no public health strategy that exists that involves telling everyone not to believe anyone no matter what, including your own administration," NBC News' Benjy Sarlin wrote in response to Trump's retweet, while Politico's Kyle Cheney tweeted that it's "hard to underscore how dangerous" this is.

Trump backing the claim that his administration's CDC, and most doctors, are lying comes as the White House has recently sought to discredit Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, with an anonymous White House official telling reporters that "several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things."

Fauci recently revealed that even as the U.S. continues to set new records for number of new coronavirus cases, he hasn't briefed Trump on COVID-19 in about two months. He also suggested that his reputation for "speaking the truth at all times and not sugar-coating things" may be "one of the reasons why I haven't been on television very much lately." Brendan Morrow

7:58 a.m.

At this point in the 2020 campaign, you would rather be presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden than President Trump. Biden has a lead of 9 percentage points in the polling averages by RealClearPolitics and The Washington Post, and 9.4 points as measured by FiveThirtyEight. He leads Trump, "in some cases outside the margin of error, in recent polls in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin," the Post reports. Democratic congressional candidates are also crushing their GOP rivals in online donations, Politico reports, setting off alarm bells among Washington Republicans

In fact, "Trump's management of this summer's crises has triggered what Democrats detect as a tectonic shift in the political landscape, with party leaders suddenly bullish about not only taking back the White House but also wresting control of the Senate, as well as expanding their House majority," the Post reports. Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) predicted "there's a tsunami coming." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said "we're feeling very good" about taking back the Senate. Not everyone thinks this level of confidence is helpful.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the Post that Democrats have "one advantage" over 2016: "People are vigilant, they are attuned, they are concerned." Trump and his allies will try to suppress Democratic votes, she warned. "I say: 'Own the ground. Don't give one grain of sand. Get everybody out.'" Longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who opposes Trump, similarly said he would warn Democrats: "Caution! Elections are very dynamic!"

"Trump and his advisers insist that their campaign's internal data show the race as more competitive," the Post reports, "and that he can gain momentum in the weeks ahead with a disciplined message and a brutal, sustained assault on Biden's character, ideology, and mental acuity."

Things can absolutely change, but over the past month at least, "Biden’s lead over Trump has been both incredibly stable and unusually large," Geoffrey Skelley notes at FiveThirtyEight, and he "is verging on a landslide. That’s not a word we use lightly." Certainly, "the president is in a very, very deep hole, and I'm not quite sure how he gets out of it," said Amy Walter, national editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. And "instead of just a slight drag, the president is tying anchors around the ankles of Republican candidates." Peter Weber

5:51 a.m.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, a social conservative aligned with the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, appears to have narrowly beat center-left Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in Sunday's election, Poland's National Electoral Commission said Monday. The head of the commission said the final results won't be announced until later, but that with more than 99 percent of votes tallied, Duda had a likely insurmountable 500,000-vote lead. The near-complete results, showing Duda beating Trzaskowski 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent, makes it the closest election in Poland since it shed communism in 1989.

The election was originally scheduled to take place in May, when Duda and the PiS were more popular. But despite Duda pushing to hold the vote on schedule, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he had to back down when a junior coalition partner sided with the opposition. Turnout was a near-record 68.12 percent, the electoral commission said.

The government, state media, and Poland's powerful Catholic Church backed Duda, a social conservative, in a divisive election where the incumbent called LGBT rights an "ideology" worse than communism and tapped anti-Semitic slurs to suggest Trzaskowski would sell Poland out to Jewish interests. The PiS is expected to continue its takeover of the judicial system, putting it in increasing conflict with the European Union.

But Duda also won domestic support for generous social welfare payments, including monthly cash bonuses of $125 per child to all families and more general retirement benefits. Trzaskowski had pledged to keep the popular welfare programs while restoring Poland's democratic values. "Duda's victory shows there is a strong electorate for social conservatism and generous state handouts," writes BBC Warsaw correspondent Adam Easton. "But the closeness of the vote also suggests that many in Poland are uneasy about the government's attempts to introduce a more illiberal democracy." Peter Weber

4:34 a.m.

President Trump spent the weekend at his golf club in Virginia, golfing. The presidency is a stressful job, and it's probably healthy for presidents to get out in the sun, but on Sunday morning, Trump defended his frequent golf outings. While many politicians and business leaders "work out endlessly," he tweeted, "my 'exercise' is playing, almost never during the week, a quick round of golf. Obama played more and much longer rounds, no problem."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) backed Trump's claim of being a fast golfer, calling it "a tremendous understatement."

But Trump is objectively wrong about his predecessor, Barack Obama, playing more golf. Trump has visited his golf properties 277 times as president, by CNN's count, and 262 times according to the Trump Golf Count website; Obama played golf 306 times over his eight years in office and fewer than half as many rounds as Trump at this point in his presidency — and Trump frequently criticized him for it. On the other hand, Trump was right about news organizations trying to get pictures of him golfing, paparazzi-like — when you're star, you let them do it — and their cameras called into question his idea of "exercise."

So Trump drives a golf cart and has a caddy, but to be fair, he did put "exercise" in quotation marks and said he only did a "tiny" bit. Peter Weber

2:50 a.m.

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not directly criticize President Trump in an unusual op-ed Saturday for commuting his friend and adviser Roger Stone's 40-month prison sentence, but he did make clear he didn't see the controversial and objectively self-interested move as serving justice.

Mueller's op-ed, published in The Washington Post, was mostly a response to accusations from Trump and his allies that the Russia investigation "was illegitimate," and specifically "claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office," Mueller wrote. "Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so."

"Stone became a central figure in our investigation for two key reasons," Mueller said: "He communicated in 2016 with individuals known to us to be Russian intelligence officers, and he claimed advance knowledge of WikiLeaks' release of emails stolen by those Russian intelligence officers."

Stone was convicted by a jury on several counts of obstructing justice and repeatedly lying to Congress and investigators about those communications with Russian intelligence, and about his frequent updates to seniors Trump campaign officials about Russia's leaking of damaging information on Hillary Clinton via WikiLeaks, Mueller explained. "And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress." He did not mention that Stone threatened to kill that witness' dog.

The op-ed apparently persuaded Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has rejected previous requests to call Mueller to testify, to reconsider his objections.

Mueller testified before two House committees to discuss his report. Taylor Reidy, a Graham spokeswoman, told the Post that a formal invitation to Mueller is being worked on, though the Post also noted the Senate has only about three dozen legislative days left before the election. Peter Weber

2:20 a.m.

Actress Kelly Preston died on Sunday morning after battling breast cancer for two years. She was 57.

A family representative told People that she chose to "keep her fight private," and had been "undergoing medical treatment for some time, supported by her closest family and friends." Preston was a "bright, beautiful, and loving soul who cared deeply about others and who brought life to everything she touched."

Born in Honolulu, Preston studied acting at the University of Southern California. Her first major movie role was in 1985's Mischief, and she went on to star in Twins, Jerry Maguire, and For Love of the Game. She married John Travolta in 1991, and in 2018, she appeared alongside him in what would become her final film, Gotti.

In addition to Travolta, Preston is survived by their children, Ella and Benjamin. Their son, Jett, died at age 16 in 2009. Catherine Garcia

1:59 a.m.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has shared with several people his surefire way to catch suspected leakers: give them specific information and see if it later shows up in print.

Multiple officials told Axios that Meadows has been "unusually vocal" about his technique, yet his tactic has netted only one person for a minor leak. President Trump has been adamant about how important it is to him that leakers get caught, and he was clear in letting Meadows, his fourth chief of staff, know that one of his duties is hunting down the perpetrators.

Trump is especially enraged by the leak that during anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests in Washington, D.C., he was rushed into a bunker, Axios says. A person close to Meadows told Axios he is "focused on national security leaks and could care less about the palace intrigue stories."

His predecessor, Mick Mulvaney, was always trying to find leakers, a former White House official said. He requested that the White House IT department take a close look at phone records and see if any officials were calling reporters. Mulvaney already had a tense relationship with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Axios reports, and when he saw that Cipollone had called journalists, he raced to tell Trump about his suspicions. A former official said Trump — who had asked Cipollone to speak with the media — saw no reason to believe Cipollone was guilty of leaking, and dismissed the information.

Presidential historian Chris Whipple told Axios this is a level of paranoia "that we never even saw in the Nixon White House." To prevent leaks, staffers need to feel as though their "voices are heard" and they have "a stake in the process and there's some integrity," Whipple said. A good chief of staff "knows that the best way to prevent damaging leaks is to stop doing illegal, stupid stuff." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads