October 18, 2018

Jared Kushner seems to think the mounting international tensions sparked by Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance will blow over.

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser has urged him to stand by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, thinking the outrage sparked by the suspected murder of a Washington Post columnist "will pass," The New York Times reports.

Kushner reportedly pointed to other recent incidents that the public largely moved on from, such as when 40 children were killed in a Saudi-led airstrike last month. CNN reports that Kushner and the crown prince have a close relationship and have communicated privately on WhatsApp.

Saudi Arabia is considering placing blame for Khashoggi's suspected death on one of the crown prince's advisers, reports the Times. Officials will reportedly admit that bin Salman ordered General Ahmed al-Assiri to capture Khashoggi so he could be brought to Saudi Arabia for interrogation, but will say he didn't authorize Assiri to kill him. Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month to obtain a marriage document and has not been heard from since. The United States has reportedly been briefed on the Saudis' plans to blame Assiri.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the United States would give Saudi Arabia a few more days to complete its investigation, at which point they will examine the facts before deciding whether to respond. Read more at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow

12:12 p.m.

The Trump Organization is giving Central Park the cold shoulder.

No, it's not giving up the two ice skating rinks it operates in Central Park. But it is largely removing the Trump name from both of them for an undisclosed reason, The Washington Post reports.

As the weather cools and skaters prepare to take the ice, they'll only see small reminders of the name that once coated the Wollman and Lasker rinks. The boards featuring "Trump" in bold red letters are gone, while only "T" peaks out from behind a white tarp in the area where people rent skates. And where a welcome sign used to read "Trump" at the top, it now features just fine print reading "operated by the Trump Organization," the Post reports. Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog group NYC Park Advocates calls it a "complete rebranding" where even workers' uniforms have ditched the name.

The New York City Parks Department said the Trump Organization informed it of the changes in August and didn't provide a reason. The Trump Organization also didn't comment to the Post. But an anonymous employee said the decision was made because the name was driving customers away and "hurting business."

The rinks are the latest Trump property to lose their presidential designation. "Trump" has been stripped from three hotels and six residential building in Manhattan since he took office, though that's because other people owned the buildings and only paid to license the Trump name, the Post explains. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:43 a.m.

A group of House Republicans reportedly just stormed into a secure impeachment hearing with their cell phones in what's being described as a "significant breach."

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) held a press conference Wednesday with a group of Republican colleagues blasting the "secret" impeachment inquiry into President Trump, contending Democrats are trying to "overturn the results" of the 2016 presidential election and declaring he and his colleagues would be disrupting the proceedings by barging into a closed-door hearing, The Hill reports.

"We're going to try to go in there, and we're going to try to figure out what's going on," Gaetz said.

About two dozen Republicans subsequently "stormed" a secure hearing room, reports CNN's Manu Raju, and they reportedly carried prohibited electronics. This delayed the testimony of Defense Department official Laura Cooper, who was on Capitol Hill a day after a diplomat Tuesday testified that he was told Trump was linking Ukraine aid to the country announcing investigations that might help him politically.

Gaetz even tweeted from "inside" the room.

Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports the room is now "being swept because of the cell phone violations."

"Phones in the classified area of the SCIF is a significant breach," Politico Kyle Cheney noted. "Rules on that are ironclad." He added, "unclear how this will be handled but this sort of thing just doesn't happen." Brendan Morrow

11:02 a.m.

The Democratic field isn't sitting well with Oprah.

Despite being enthralled with former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg early in the 2020 race, Oprah Winfrey is now reportedly dissatisfied with who's running. And she's not the only one — Hillary Clinton is still thinking about jumping into the race, The Washington Post reports.

Oprah has made her presidential ambitions for Disney CEO Bob Iger well known, and has reportedly "repeatedly begged" him to run. She said in September she hoped to be "knocking on doors in Des Moines, wearing an 'Iger 2020' T-shirt." "Bob Iger's guidance and decency is exactly what the country needs right now," she continued.

Clinton similarly "has not ruled out jumping in herself," suggesting she's also seeing "dissatisfaction" with the race's current frontrunners, two people tell the Post. Party leaders have said they're worried about former Vice President Joe Biden's involvement in President Trump's impeachment, and that the other top-tier candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are "too liberal" to beat Trump.

It all has Democratic National Committee member Elaine Kamarck saying she "could imagine much stronger candidates" leading the field, perhaps Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) or retired Adm. William McRaven, who led the raid on Osama bin Laden. Read more about the massive yet apparently unsatisfactory Democratic field at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:37 a.m.

Joe Biden is taking his rebound to a new level.

After briefly yielding frontrunner status to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a new CNN poll shows the former vice president is back on top of the Democratic field. He ended up with 34 percent support in the nationwide poll — his best CNN poll numbers since he launched his 2020 run back in April.

Biden's support doesn't seem to pull points away from any single candidate, CNN points out. Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are about even with their previous CNN poll showings, with 19 and 16 percent, respectively. Still, that's a big drop from Warren's peak 29 percent in a Quinnipiac poll earlier this month. Biden's rise also comes as he's dealing with being a major player in President Trump's impeachment investigation, and corresponds with big gains in support among "moderate and conservative Democrats," "racial and ethnic minorities," and "older voters," CNN writes.

Next up in the CNN poll are South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) with 6 percent, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke each at 3 percent. CNN and SRSS surveyed 352 people by landline and 651 by cell phone from Oct. 17–22, with a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:26 a.m.

President Trump's former acting attorney general just made one of the strangest arguments against his impeachment yet.

Matthew Whitaker, who served as acting attorney general for about three months after Jeff Sessions' firing, appeared on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show Tuesday at the end of an eventful day for the impeachment inquiry, during which a diplomat testified he was told Trump was linking aid to Ukraine on the country announcing investigations that might benefit him politically.

But Whitaker argued not that Trump didn't do so or isn't guilty of abuse of power, but that abuse of power simply isn't criminal.

"What evidence of a crime do you have?" Whitaker asked Democrats in the interview, Mediaite reports. "Abuse of power is not a crime ... The constitution is very clear that this has to be some pretty egregious behavior."

Abuse of power was, in fact, an article of impeachment against former President Bill Clinton, though it didn't pass the House, as well as against former President Richard Nixon before his resignation. It's also what House Democrats reportedly plan to focus on throughout their impeachment inquiry going forward, with NBC News recently reporting that they'll zero in on "a simple 'abuse of power' narrative."

"This is a really bad talking point," conservative Erick Erickson tweeted in response to the Whitaker clip, adding that if Trump's allies can't come up with a better argument, "the president is toast." Brendan Morrow

8:33 a.m.

Google just announced a major computing breakthrough.

The company on Wednesday said it has achieved "quantum supremacy," meaning getting a quantum computer to perform a task that a classical computer cannot, The New York Times reports.

Specifically, Google says its researchers' quantum computer performed a calculation in just over three minutes that would take the fastest supercomputer in the world around 10,000 years. The milestone, detailed in a Nature article, is one that the Times points out scientists have been working toward since the 1980s and that University of Texas at Austin computer scientist Scott Aaronson compared to the Wright brothers' first flight.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a blog post explained that "we're now one step closer to applying quantum computing to — for example — design more efficient batteries, create fertilizer using less energy, and figure out what molecules might make effective medicines." He also described this as "the 'hello world' moment we've been waiting for — the most meaningful milestone to date in the quest to make quantum computing a reality."

This announcement was seemingly made prematurely last month when a paper featuring the claim briefly appeared online, but it's now official from Google. In anticipation of the unveiling Wednesday, though, IBM disputed Google's claim in a blog post, arguing that actually, "the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity."

Even if Google's claim is correct, Engadget notes the "feat has almost no practical use" right now and "was designed simply to show that a quantum computer could perform as expected." Pinchai acknowledged that in his blog post by saying that "we have a long way to go between today's lab experiments and tomorrow's practical applications." But as he explained in an interview with Technology Review, "if in any field you have a breakthrough, you start somewhere." Brendan Morrow

7:29 a.m.

Another day, another poll showing rising support for the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released early Wednesday, 55 percent of U.S. voters support the impeachment inquiry, a jump of 4 percentage points from Quinnipiac's previous poll, released just last week, while 43 percent disapprove. For the first time, a plurality of voters, 48 percent, want Trump impeached and removed from office while 46 percent disagree; last week, those numbers were reversed.

There is a wide partisan split in the results, but 58 percent of independents support the House impeachment inquiry and 49 percent want him booted from office, versus 41 percent who don't. As support for impeaching Trump rose, his job approval number dropped to 38 percent, with disapproval at 58 percent, tied for the lowest net approval of his presidency. In last week's poll, Trump's approval rating was 41 percent to 54 percent disapproval. A brutal 66 percent of women disapprove of Trump's job performance.

In FiveThirtyEight's aggregation of impeachment polls, support for the impeachment inquiry is now at 51.1 percent, with 42.7 percent not supportive, while 48.7 percent back impeaching Trump and/or removing him from office versus 43.4 percent who don't.

Quinnipiac's poll, conducted Oct. 17-21 among 1,587 self-identified registered voters nationwide; has a margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points. Peter Weber

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