May 5, 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly oversaw a live-fire military exercise on Saturday that may have included North Korea's first short-range ballistic missile launch since 2017.

If the reports of the ballistic missile are true, it would violate United Nations resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea. However, Bloomberg writes, it would "stop short of breaching" Kim's promise to President Trump that North Korea would refrain from testing longer-range missiles that could threaten the United States.

Experts argue that Kim is utilizing a "push-the-line" strategy to see how much leeway Trump allows before attempting to intervene again. The two leaders have had on-and-off negotiations over the past year surrounding the destruction of North Korea's nuclear arsenal, but talks stalled in February when they could not agree on proper concessions.

North Korea also reportedly tested other "projectiles" on Friday, which caused its own stir. But Trump appeared undeterred and seemingly remains hopeful that a deal between the two nations will be reached. Tim O'Donnell

11:29 a.m.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders might not be out of the public eye for long.

While there is still a ways to go until the next Arkansas gubernatorial election in 2022, the outgoing White House press secretary is reportedly gathering steam to join the race, Politico reports.

While it's not entirely clear if Sanders is committed to the idea — she reportedly has not directly sought support and has occasionally joked in private about the possibility of running — three people who have spoken to her in recent days told Politico that she is seriously considering going all in. She would make a formidable candidate, too.

Sanders would likely be able to garner support from her the network built by her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, as well well as the one built by Arkansas Sen. John Boozman (R), whose campaign Sanders managed in 2010. That's not to mention her closeness to President Trump, who easily won Arkansas in 2016 and has already touted Sanders as a gubernatorial candidate multiple times in recent days. "She's got the Huckabee political machine, the Boozman political machine, and the Trump political machine," Roby Brock, a longtime Arkansas political reporter, told Politico.

Still, not every Republican in Arkansas is thrilled by the prospect — she has never held elected office and has also been out of the state for a while, meaning she needs to spend time reconnecting with issues Arkansas voters care about, Politico reports. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

10:50 a.m.

It's a wonder no one figured this out sooner.

Marcus Epstein has a history of associating with far-right groups and white nationalists while writing racially provocative pieces across conservative sites. Yet over the past two years, he seemingly dropped that history as he adopted the name "Mark Epstein" and wrote op-eds for The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Forbes, and other publications — and the Journal has a very odd explanation for how it happened, BuzzFeed News reports.

Epstein previously worked for former Colorado congressmember Tom Tancredo, who espoused xenophobic views himself, and founded what BuzzFeed News calls a "nativist political club" with white supremacist Richard Spencer in the mid-2000s. Under his full name, Epstein also wrote a series of provocative, race-related op-eds for the anti-immigration website VDare.

But on the Journal's website, Mark Epstein is only identified as an "antitrust attorney and freelance writer" and largely writes in opposition to big tech regulation. Epstein gets that designation because that's the way "we know Mark Epstein," the Journal said in a statement to BuzzFeed News, adding that "we are not aware that he has written under any other byline." A spokesperson for The Hill said "we would never knowingly post material from a racist writer and have no information identifying this writer as such." Forbes, meanwhile, said Epstein's byline appeared "without permission as a co-author on one of our contributor’s posts" and that it would take Epstein's post down for further review.

Epstein explained the pseudonym to BuzzFeed News as a way to "move past the media-internet driven outrage culture" surrounding his past actions, including a dismissed 2007 misdemeanor assault charge. He also said he has "never been white nationalist nor held their beliefs." Read more at BuzzFeed News. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:30 a.m.

It feels like a bit of cycle.

A new poll conducted by Avalanche — a progressive public-opinion research group — shows that if the nebulous term "electability" is removed as a factor in the 2020 Democratic primaries, the race looks quite different, Axios reports. In an "electability"-free world, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) actually led former Vice President Joe Biden, 21 percent to 19 percent among those polled by Avalanche, while in many other national polls, Biden often leads substantially.

The problem for Warren, though, is reportedly not the idea that a woman isn't capable of performing the job, but the fact that too many voters are concerned that other voters won't elect a woman. It's less about Warren and more about America, Avalanche writes.

So, the distrust in their fellow voters leads people to edge away from Warren's candidacy in favor of Biden, whom voters feel has a better chance of defeating President Trump in the general election. While regular polls show Biden as the favorite among 29 percent of Democrats, that number drops to 19 percent without the "electability" factor. Warren, meanwhile, jumps from 16 percent to 21 percent when "electability" isn't considered.

For reference, Avalanche's survey shows that 97 percent of likely Democratic voters believe getting Trump out of the White House is very important, while only 28 percent feel confident that he'll lose. That, coupled with the fact that 62 percent believe that Americans won't elect a woman, is why, Avalanche's data suggests, Warren is lagging behind Biden.

Avalanche conducted a listening survey of 1,871 registered voters between May 30-June 3. No margin of error was reported. Read more at Axios. Tim O'Donnell

9:58 a.m.

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough went ballistic during a Morning Joe segment on Wednesday, demanding congressional testimony from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a fiery rant.

Scarborough interviewed Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Wednesday's show and discussed whether Mueller will testify before Congress. Mueller in a statement last month said that he does not wish to speak about his investigation further and would not provide any new information were he to testify.

"I want to know why Robert Mueller thinks he's above coming to Capitol Hill and testifying for Americans," Scarborough said. "It's outrageous!"

Scarborough then turned his outrage to House Democrats, asking Himes, "Why don't you subpoena him? This is absolutely ridiculous! ... You guys can't get him on Capitol Hill to talk? And he's too high and mighty to get on Capitol Hill and talk?"

Scarborough continued his rant while Himes said nothing at all, imploring Democrats to subpoena testimony from Mueller even if that's only going to involve Mueller reading from the report. "Millions and millions of dollars were paid for your report," Scarborough imagined a lawmaker saying to Mueller. "Not everybody, Bob, is going to read it! So you read it for them!” By the end of this rant, Scarborough found himself getting so worked up that he began to laugh while throwing his newspaper off camera.

When Himes finally chimed in, Scarborough wasn't satisfied with his answers, pushing back when the House Democrat said Mueller's testimony will happen but in private. Scarborough took to Twitter after this segment to joke about the insertion of this rant into the interview with Himes, sarcastically complaining that the lawmaker was "a little talkative." Watch a portion of Scarborough's rant below. Brendan Morrow

8:46 a.m.

Fox News' Tucker Carlson is now urging President Trump against a war with Iran both on and off his show.

The host of Tucker Carlson Tonight in recent weeks has "privately advised" Trump and warned him not to take military action against Iran while criticizing the administration's "hawkish members," The Daily Beast reports.

That's a familiar message to anyone who has tuned into Carlson's show amid rising tensions with Iran, with Carlson in May railing against National Security Adviser John Bolton, saying Bolton wants a war with Iran "more than anything in the world" and that it would be "like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and his birthday wrapped into one." Carlson also voiced concerns over Bolton's influence in the White House — and now, it looks like he's actively attempting to counteract that influence.

Trump struck a different tone than some of these more "hawkish" members of his administration when he said in a Monday interview with Time that Iran's recent actions have been "very minor" so far. And when asked if he is considering military action against Iran, Trump responded, "I wouldn't say that. I can't say that at all."

This is just the latest instance of Trump getting some private input from his favorite Fox News hosts. A New York Magazine report in 2018 suggested the president speaks with Fox News host Sean Hannity "most weeknights," with Mediaite in March reporting that Trump and Hannity still talk "constantly." Brendan Morrow

7:59 a.m.

Hope Hicks, former White House communications director and a member of President Trump's inner circle since the start of his 2016 campaign, is set to testify on Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee in a closed-door hearing.

Democrats on the panel, who are investigating possible obstruction of justice by Trump, seek to question Hicks about five instances of potential obstruction described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, in addition to allegations that Trump directed hush money payments to two women, Politico reports. Although the hearing will not be public, a transcript will reportedly be released within 48 hours. This is the first time a member of Trump's inner circle will be interviewed by a Democratically-controlled panel in their investigations into Trump, CNN notes.

The White House on Tuesday directed Hicks not to answer any questions related to her time in the administration, also saying that specific questions related to her time on the transition team would "likely implicate executive branch confidentiality interests" as well, The Hill reports.

ABC News reports that the committee "would not find it acceptable for Hicks not to answer any questions about her time in the White House," citing a committee aide, and The New York Times reports that Democrats are "prepared to contest such assertions on the spot." Democrats may, however, be able to get some answers from Hicks about her time on the Trump 2016 campaign.

Hicks previously testified before the House and the Senate in 2018 and would not answer questions about her time in the White House.

When asked by CNN's Manu Raju on Tuesday about the White House instructing Hicks not to answer questions about her time in the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) simply responded, "Obstruction of justice." Brendan Morrow

7:24 a.m.

In a long-awaited 101-page report released Wednesday morning, an independent United Nations human rights investigator said Saudi Arabia is legally responsible for the "deliberate, premeditated execution" of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khasoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. The investigator, Agnes Callamard, said her investigation, hampered by a lack of cooperation and likely obstruction by the Saudi government, found no "smoking gun" linking Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the "extrajudicial killing," but she found enough "credible evidence" to warrant "further investigation by a proper authority" outside Saudi Arabia.

"Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources, and finances," Callamard wrote. "While the Saudi government claims that these resources were put in place by [then–deputy head of intelligence] Ahmed Asiri, every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the crown prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched."

The CIA has concluded that Salman likely ordered Khashoggi's murder, but President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said the U.S. is still determining responsibility, also arguing that one bad incident isn't sufficient to derail the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

Callamard also gave a detailed, minute-by-minute breakdown of Khashoggi's murder, from two Saudi agents discussing dismembering him before he entered the consulate to get marriage papers to the Saudi ruse that he was being taken to back Saudi Arabia, an aborted text message to his son, his sedation and suffocation with a plastic bag, and his dismemberment with a buzzsaw. His body has never been recovered. Peter Weber

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