×
July 16, 2018

"What is the point" of President Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, wonders former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Does it have a "strategic purpose?" Hagel asked Monday. "Is this just a golf date with another leader?"

If you've had the same question, Trump has answers — perhaps too many answers. As The Washington Post documents, the president's explanations for why he should meet with Putin, as well as why they need to talk alone, have not been consistent in the run-up to Helsinki.

The president's discussion plan has at various points included Ukraine, China, Syria, "other parts of the Middle East," nuclear weapons, trade, military, missiles, election meddling, extradition of the 12 Russian agents indicted for election-related hacking Friday, and "many other subjects."

As for why Trump wanted to meet with Putin alone, CNN reports that the White House provided three separate reasons: "[Trump] wanted alone time to assess [Putin] better, he didn't want details of their conversation to leak and — this is key — didn't want aides who favor a hard line against Russia to undercut him."

Trump has also seemed to propose meeting just to meet ("I do believe in meetings") or to develop a positive personal relationship with Putin. "I hope we get along well," he said last week. "[I]n a sense, we're competitors. Not a question of friend or enemy. He's not my enemy. And, hopefully, someday, maybe he'll be a friend." Maybe the strategic purpose was friendship all along. Bonnie Kristian

9:32p.m.

Target's coming for you, Amazon and Walmart.

This holiday season, the company is offering free two-day shipping for online orders, covering hundreds of thousands of items, with no minimum purchase. It's a way to undercut competitors like Amazon and Walmart, The Wall Street Journal reports, with Walmart offering free two-day shipping on orders of $35 or more and Amazon providing the same service for Prime members. The promotion will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 22.

Target CEO Brian Cornell said the company has been converting stores to distribution centers, which cuts shipping costs and enables "our digital growth and strategy." He said about half of all online orders are now fulfilled at stores, and the plan is to fulfill more than 90 percent of all two-day orders from stores. Even with free shipping, Cornell said Target stores will still be filled with customers, as "over 80 percent of all holiday shopping is going to happen in the store." Catherine Garcia

8:41p.m.

Hurricane Willa made landfall Tuesday night south of Mazatlan, Mexico, as a Category 3 storm, with winds up to 120 mph.

Mazatlan is a popular tourist destination, and several cruise ships bound for the resort town have been diverted and more than 4,000 people along the coast have been evacuated. Officials are warning of life-threatening storm surge, rainfall, and wind in parts of western Mexico, with Willa expected to be one of the most dangerous storms to hit Mexico in years, CBS News reports.

This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout. Catherine Garcia

8:01p.m.

An Idaho-based white supremacist group is behind a racist robocall targeting Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee and Florida's Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Gillum is black, and the same white supremacist group, which operates the website The Road to Power, sent out a racist robocall against Gillum during the primary in August. In the new shockingly racist robocall, a person using a minstrel dialect says he is Gillum, and refers to himself as a "Negro." In the background, minstrel music plays, and a monkey is occasionally heard screeching. The ad also insults Jews, saying they are "the ones that been putting Negroes in charge over the white folk, just like they done after the Civil War."

Gillum's spokesman, Geoff Burgan, called the robocalls "disgusting" and "abhorrent," and said the campaign hopes "that these calls, and the dangerous people who are behind them, are not given any more attention than they already have been." Stephen Lawson, spokesman for Gillum's Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, said their campaign had "absolutely nothing to do" with the robocalls and "joins those in condemning it." In August, DeSantis used the term "monkey it up" in reference to Gillum, but later claimed this had nothing to do with race. His comment was referred to in the robocall. Catherine Garcia

6:52p.m.

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin plan to meet in Paris in November, National Security Adviser John Bolton said Tuesday.

Discussions are now underway for the meeting, to take place during celebrations on Nov. 11 marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Putin and Trump last met in Helsinki in July.

Bolton is in Moscow to discuss the U.S. soon withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Russia has called the step "dangerous," and per a transcript provided by the Kremlin, Putin said to Bolton, "As I recall, there is a bald eagle pictured on the U.S. coat of arms. It holds 13 arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other. My question: Has your eagle already eaten all the olives, leaving only the arrows?"

"I didn't bring any olives," Bolton responded. Putin and Bolton met for 90 minutes, and Bolton said he also brought up "objectionable" election meddling, and why it "was particularly harmful for Russian-American relations without producing anything in return." Catherine Garcia

5:41p.m.

The U.S. is taking its first steps toward punishing Saudi Arabia for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. had identified "at least some of the individuals" suspected to be "responsible" for Khashoggi's murder at Turkey's Saudi consulate on Oct. 2. That includes "those in the intelligence services, the royal court, the foreign ministry, and other Saudi ministries," Pompeo said. The U.S. will withdraw visas from those people and is weighing sanctions against them, among other potential consequences.

As Pompeo made the announcement, Trump was giving a wide-ranging press conference that tackled Khashoggi's death. The Saudi operation was "carried out poorly and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups," Trump said. But he maintained that he wants to "see the facts" before deciding whether to believe Turkish claims that the Saudi government pre-planned and directed the killing.

Also in their Tuesday statements, Pompeo and Trump both reiterated opposition to the migrant caravan heading north through Mexico. Pompeo declared that migrants "will not be successful at getting into the United States illegally, no matter what." The caravan is still roughly 1,000 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:12p.m.

President Trump is leaving retribution for Jamal Khashoggi's murder up to Congress — just like the FBI investigation into Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, he says.

In a wide-ranging set of comments on Tuesday, Trump said an alleged Saudi operation to kill the U.S.-based Saudi journalist was "carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of coverups." But he says he still wants to "see the facts first" before deciding whether to believe Turkish claims that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly behind the murder.

Trump has been reluctant to criticize Saudi involvement in the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi in Turkey's Saudi consulate, though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did announce the revocation of visas from Saudi agents said to have killed Khashoggi on Tuesday. But "in terms of what we ultimately do," presumably meaning fuller consequences for the country, Trump says he's "going to leave it up to Congress." That's a "little bit" like what he did for senators who wanted an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, Trump said.

Trump went on to discuss the Honduran migrant caravan still 1,000 miles from the U.S. border. He previously — and baselessly — claimed "unknown Middle Easterners" were in the throngs marching through Mexico, but said Tuesday "there's no proof" of that being true. He also defended his repeated assertion that he is a "nationalist," claiming he'd "never heard" theories that his comments implied he was a white nationalist. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:27p.m.

After he spent the past seven years focused on the silver screen, the world of television is welcoming Steve Carell back home.

Carell will star in Apple's new original drama series about a morning news show, per The Hollywood Reporter. Apple is clearly pulling out all the stops for this major foray into original content, as the upcoming series also stars Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, both of whom serve as producers as well. This untitled drama revolves around a morning news program, and is inspired by Brian Stelter's nonfiction book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV. Carell will be playing Mitch Kessler, a TV anchor who is struggling to stay relevant in modern times.

This is Carell's first regular television role since he left The Office in 2011. Coincidentally, it's also Aniston's first regular television role since Friends, another NBC sitcom, ended in 2004. Carell should have no problem getting into character as a television broadcaster, a role he has played a weird number of times now. He kick-started his career by joining The Daily Show as a correspondent, going on to portray fictional broadcasters in two of his most famous movies, Bruce Almighty and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. He'll be the primary male lead in this series. Though it remains untitled, Apple has already gone all in on the upcoming show, ordering two full seasons before a single episode even airs.

Apple currently has more than a dozen original shows in development for a streaming platform that The Wall Street Journal previously described as fairly family-friendly and essentially "expensive NBC." None of the shows in the works have release dates. Brendan Morrow

See More Speed Reads