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Trump: Believes Saudis Lied But Still Supports Crown Prince

Donald Trump continues his occasional and arbitrary support for the presumption of innocence. In an interview with the Washington Post, he acknowledges the Saudi's lied about journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death, but still says he supports Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman, because neither Trump nor anyone in his administration has personally heard any evidence (including the reported tapes) implicating him.

Trump does, however, wittingly or unwittingly, seem to implicate the Crown Prince in a Saudi effort to kidnap Khashoggi and bring him back to Saudi Arabia. [More...]

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Saudis Admit Khashoggi Died Inside Turkish Consulate

Saudi Arabia has issued a statement acknowledging that journalist Jamal Khashoggi died inside the Turkish consulate. But they claim he died as the result of a fist-fight.

"An argument erupted between him [Khashoggi] and others whom he met in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul leading to a fist fight which led to his death," SPA reported.

"The investigations are still under way and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested," a statement from the Saudi public prosecutor said, adding royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri were fired from their positions.

Here is the actual Saudi press release. The Saudis are firmly standing behind the Crown Prince. Here is a statement today from the Saudi Minister of Justice: [More...]

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Caravan: Thousands of Migrants Cross Into Mexico

A border fence and gate did not prevent thousands in the Caravan of Immigrants from crossing the Mexican border despite the preventive efforts and large numbers of Mexican police. Here is the most compelling slideshow of images I've found, just scroll down the page to them as there is no independent link.

The Mexican police ultimately gave up. Here is a one minute video of the moment they succeeded into crossing the border.

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Joaquin Castro Walks Back Kushner Allegations

Rep. Joaquin Castro , a member of the House Intelligence Committee, took to Twitter today to walk back his statements on CNN about Jared Kushner's possible providing of a hit list to the Saudi Crown Prince which included Jamal Kashoggi.

Castro, during a CNN appearance Friday morning, cited unspecified “reporting that Jared Kushner may have, with U.S. intelligence, delivered a hit list, an enemies list, to the crown prince, to MBS, in Saudi Arabia and that the prince may have acted on that, and one of the people he took action against is Mr. Khashoggi.”

While his statements on CNN yesterday were interpreted by many as a direct accusation against Jared Kushner, today Rep. Castro says he is only asking for an investigation based on media reporting. The reporting he cites today:

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Thursday Open Thread

Here's a new open thread, all topics welcome.

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Trump Makes Threats Over Caravan

Donald Trump is threatening to cut aid money to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala if the migrant caravan is not stopped. He's also threatening to send the military to the southern border with Mexico.

Vox reports the caravan is unlikely to make it across the Mexican border. [More...]

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Mueller Likely to Issue Russia Report After Midterms

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reported to be preparing a report on whether the Trump campaign was involved in Russian interference in the 2016 election after the midterm elections.

The report may not be public. (Will that stop Trump from tweeting out any statements that are favorable to him?)

I don't expect the report to find that Trump personally knew about or conspired with Russian attempts to sway the election. I doubt his aides took him seriously enough at that point to share such information with him.

What about obstruction of justice after the election? What about Don, Jr.?

I still wonder whether Kushner and the campaign's digital marketing director (hired by Kushner)who worked with the Facebook team to learn how to do microtargeting and ad placement on FB got immunity from Mueller.

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Tape Sufaces of Torture of Journalist Kashoggi Inside Embassy

Jamal Kashoggi was tortured for seven minutes before he was beheaded inside the Saudi embassy in Instabul. The Saudi kill squad played loud music as they cut off his fingers. This is according to Turkish sources who have obtained the tape.

Saudi Consul Mohammed al-Otaibi can be heard on one tape saying during Khashoggi’s torture: “Do this outside. You are going to get me in trouble,” according to the paper, which did not reveal how it obtained the tapes.

The Turkish report on the tapes is here.

The source said Khashoggi was “dragged from the Consul General’s office at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and onto the table of his study next door. The screaming stopped when Khashoggi was injected with an as yet unknown substance. Head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy began to cut Khashoggi’s body up on a table in the study while he was still alive. As he started to dismember the body, Tubaigy put on earphones and listened to music. He advised other members of the squad to do the same.”

A New York Times report is here. His body has not been found. One Turkish columnist thinks it may have been vaporized. He also writes that "some of the killers are personal guards of Prince Salman."

Apparently, the Prince had an "army of assassins", including contractors hired from a U.S. firm (former U.S. military). [More...]

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Mexico's Defense Minister Supports Legalizing Poppies

Mexico is considering legalizing poppy growing. The outgoing Defense Minister advocates for it. He says the new President may be in favor of it also.

In August, the legislature in the state of Guerrero approved a measure to decriminalize poppies. [More...]

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Wednesday Open Thread

Update: The death toll for Hurricane Michael is now at 16.

The judge in El Chapo's trial denied another continuance request. Looks like trial may actually begin Nov. 5. It will last weeks. I have been following it very closely, reading every pleading and court order since El Chapo arrived here (as well those in his predecessor cases in other districts, going back to 1993.) What I won't do is speculate on expected protected witnesses before they testify. I do plan on covering the trial extensively once testimony begins. If New York weren't so expensive, I'd do it in person.

Harvey Weinstein won a round and got one sex assault charged dropped this week. He's nowhere near home free (yet).

Time for a new open thread, all topics welcome.

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Hurricane Michael and the Florida Panhandle

Hurricane Michael is scheduled to make landfall this afternoon. Last night it gathered strength and was designated a Category 4 storm. CBS reported (no link due to autoplay video):

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says Hurricane Michael is packing even more punch: It strengthened into a Category 4 storm early Wednesday, with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. According to the NHC's latest advisory, Michael could produce a life-threatening storm surge as high as 13 feet and dump as much as a foot of rain in some places.

Florida, Alabama and Georgia are in states of emergency. 375,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. [More...]

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Nikki Haley Resigns

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley resigned today. Lots of people are asking why. And some think Trump will name Ivanka as her replacement.

Haley said she will not be a candidate in 2020. Is she looking towards 2024?

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Kavanaugh Sworn In: Trump Bloviates, SNL Laughs

Not as funny as last week's cold open on Kavanaugh with Matt Damon, but still quite good.

In real life last night, Donald Trump answered questions from a Fox News Host after his rally in Kansas. The depth of his fake news statements made my head spin. He can't really believe this stuff. I guess he knows his core, under-informed fanboy base can't be bothered to watch real news, which makes them over-susceptible to his nonsense.

We are three weeks to November. Please do your part to get out the vote. If you don't, your children and grandchildren may never forgive you.

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Sen. Collins and Manchin Announce Support for Kavanaugh Nomination

The Senate voted today on the motion to invoke cloture on Judge Brett Kavanaugh and it passed by a vote of 51 to 49. It appears he now has the votes to be confirmed.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me) and Joe Manchin (D-WVA) both announced their intention to vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Manchin's statement is here. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)announced her intent to vote against him. Murkowski is the only Republican to vote against Kavanaugh

Senator Susan Collins went on and on in a speech on the Senate floor. Highlights (from my listening to it live): [More...]

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New FBI Report on Kavanaugh: Back to Square One

Republicans assert the new FBI background report on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh adds no new details or confirmation of the improper sexual conduct claims against him that would disqualify him from serving on the Supreme Court. They say it's time to vote. Indeed, a vote will likely occur Saturday.

The Democrats and accusers are angry, claiming the FBI didn't interview enough people -- i.e., those supporting the accusers' character and other high school and college classmates of Kavanaugh. However, the people Christine Ford said were present at the party where she was attacked were interviewed and none confirmed her account or even remembered such a gathering at which both Kavanaugh and Ford were present.

This was entirely predictable. [More...]

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