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

11:14 a.m.

As Sudan's transitional civilian government continues its nascent rule, the country's former President Omar al-Bashir, who was removed from power after 30 years earlier this year following nationwide protests, was sentenced Saturday to two years detention in a state-run reform center on financial irregularities and corruption charges. Some of his supporters briefly disrupted the proceedings before being forced out of the courtroom.

The 75-year-old is reportedly protected somewhat by a law that prevents anyone over the age of 70 from serving jail time. He will reportedly serve his sentence after a verdict is reached in another case in which he is accused of ordering security forces to kill the protesters in the movement that led to his removal, and he was also questioned about the 1989 coup in which he was brought to power. One of his lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is also pursuing al-Bashir for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region, but none of the cases against him in Sudan are connected to those allegations. Read more at Al Jazeera and BBC. Tim O'Donnell

10:47 a.m.

Come back with a better plan.

That's essentially what California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Friday told Pacific Gas & Electric after he rejected the utility company's plan to pull itself out of bankruptcy and pay victims of California's wildfires. Newsom said the proposal didn't meet safety requirements under state law and that PG&E fell "woefully short" of the safety benchmark. The company reportedly won't receive state assistance without implementing major changes to its plan. Without that money, it's future is murky.

"For too long, PG&E has been mismanaged, failed to make adequate investments in fire safety and fire prevention, and neglected critical infrastructure," Newsom said in a letter. "PG&E has simply violated the public trust."

PG&E, whose faulty equipment has received blame for sparking some the state's recent fires, is on the hook for $30 billion in financial liabilities from California. The company didn't actually need Newsom's approval, but asked him to weigh in anyway. Now it looks like the gamble backfired, and PG&E is pushing back against Newsom's comments, arguing its plan does conform to the safety requirements.

PG&E has until Tuesday to revise its plan. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times. Tim O'Donnell

8:27 a.m.

North Korea appears committed to that year-end deadline.

The country conducted its second successful test this week geared toward strengthening Pyongyang's nuclear deterrent at the Sohae satellite launch site Friday, state media said Saturday. Although North Korea's Academy of Defense Science didn't specify what was tested, the trial may have included technologies to improve intercontinental ballistic missiles, The Associated Press reports. North Korea considers ICBMs as strategic defensive weapons.

The test, in addition to one on Dec. 7, is widely seen as an attempt to pressure the Trump administration to make major concessions in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea set a year-end deadline for the United States to change course from its insistence on unilateral denuclearization before it sets out on a "new path."

Still some experts don't believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will reverse course too drastically and create tensions that existed in 2017 by running nuclear and ICBM tests. Instead, they predict he'll try to provoke Trump with military activities that don't pose a direct threat to Washington and by strengthening Pyongyang's alliance with Moscow and Beijing, AP reports. Read more at Reuters and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

December 13, 2019

President Trump now has three chances to keep his financial records a secret.

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear Trump's appeal of three cases that involve subpoenas for his financial records, giving no explanation for the decision. Oral arguments for the separate cases are likely slated for March, with a decision expected at the end of June.

In three separate cases, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, the House Oversight Committee, and the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees requested Trump's financial records from his banks and other businesses he worked with. Trump's lawyers sued to block those subpoenas, but in each case, courts ruled against them. So they appealed the decisions to the Supreme Court, first getting stays on the rulings to block the records' immediate release to the oversight committee, and then getting the whole case accepted Friday.

Previous judges have noted that past presidents released their tax returns to the public, and Trump's lawyers subsequently argued that the subpoenas are not a legitimate legislative inquiry. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 13, 2019

Hey, I don't know about you, but I'm feeling ... the oppressing crush of mortality.

Taylor Swift celebrated her 30th birthday on Friday, despite being 19, like, yesterday. "WHO'S GONNA TELL HER SHE'S THIRTAY NOW," Swift tweeted, sharing a throwback photo of the sweet little girl who would one day grow up to have complete strangers creepily speculate about her fertility on social media.

Swift didn't note how she plans to celebrate, but seeing as she accepted Billboard's first-ever Woman of the Decade Award last night, she understandably might be sleeping in. Jeva Lange

December 13, 2019

President Trump has at least three Jewish friends. He just asks them all the same questions.

On at least four occasions over the past few months, Trump has pulled out a story where he's purportedly asking a friend which of his administration's moves have been bigger for the Jewish people. The friend always gives the same answer — but Trump changes the name of who he's talking to each time, The Washington Post reports.

"Charlie, let me ask you what’s bigger for the Jewish people," Trump recalled asking Charles Kushner, the disgraced real estate developer and father of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, at a Hanukkah event on Wednesday. "Giving the embassy to Jerusalem" and recognizing it as Israel's capital or supporting Israel's sovereignty in the disputed Golan Heights. "Neither," Kushner apparently replied. "The biggest thing of all is what you did by ending the Iran nuclear catastrophe."

Yet just a few hours earlier, Trump told nearly the same story, this time involving the even shiftier New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. A few days earlier, it was Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson who Trump asked about Israeli accomplishments. And back in September, it was a nondescript "people" who told him they loved his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Read the full accounts or watch them mashed up side-by-side at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 13, 2019

Next week's Democratic debate could lose its frontrunners.

Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles is currently facing a union boycott against its food service provider Sodexo — the two sides have been in talks for a deal since March. And with the Dec. 19 debate scheduled to take place at Loyola Marymount, four candidates, including three at the top of the polls, say they won't be there.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the first candidate to recognize the conflict at Loyola Marymount, tweeting Friday that he would not cross the Unite Here Local 11 picket line organized against Sodexo.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) soon tweeted that she also wouldn't cross the union's picket line "even if it means missing the debate." Andrew Yang, the underdog tech entrepreneur who was the last candidate to make the stage, said the same, and then former Vice President Joe Biden joined in. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who didn't make this Democratic debate, then called on the remaining candidates to drop as well.

The Democratic National Committee has already faced a union challenge to this debate, deciding in early November to pull it from UCLA over the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees' three-year boycott on speakers at the school. It announced it was moving to Loyola Marymount a few days later. Kathryn Krawczyk

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