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Saudi officials are preparing to say that, after nearly two weeks of denials, prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by mistake during an “interrogation gone wrong.” The changing Saudi narrative over Khashoggi’s disappearance came as Turkish forensic investigators wrapped up their search of Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul, nearly two weeks after the prominent journalist and Washington Post columnist entered the building and vanished. Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was tortured and murdered by a squad of 15 Saudi hit men, who dismembered his body. Video filmed outside the consulate Monday showed workers carrying buckets, mops, trash bags and a carton of bleach into the building hours ahead of the arrival of Turkish crime scene investigators, who reported they smelled cleaning chemicals when they arrived on the scene.
On Monday, President Trump said he’d spoken by phone with Saudi King Salman, who denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts.
President Donald Trump: “The king firmly denied any knowledge of it. He didn’t really know. Maybe—I—I don’t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon. But his was a flat denial.”
Trump has claimed Saudi Arabia would suffer “severe consequences” if it was responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance, but he’s repeatedly said the U.S. should not limit weapons sales to the kingdom. A growing number of U.S. lawmakers, including some Republicans, have called for sanctions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Riyadh, where he met with Saudi King Salman to discuss the disappearance of Khashoggi. They reportedly spoke for less than 15 minutes.
President Trump visited Florida and Georgia Monday in the wake of Hurricane Michael’s destructive path, which has killed at least 19 people in the United States, with dozens still missing. Trump, who was accompanied by first lady Melania, visited storm-ravaged towns in Florida with Republican governor and Senate candidate Rick Scott, before heading to Georgia to meet with farmers. This is Trump responding to a reporter asking if the damage caused by Hurricane Michael caused him to rethink his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
President Donald Trump: “No, I want crystal clean water. I want the cleanest air on the planet, which, by the way, now we have. It’s gotten better since last year, even better. And I’m very, very tough on that. So, when you talk about environmental, I am truly an environmentalist. A lot of people smile when they hear that, but I have the cleanest air, and I’m going to have the cleanest air. But that doesn’t mean we have to put every one of our businesses out of business.”
The Category 4 hurricane has left behind a trail of devastation, flattening entire towns and destroying homes and businesses. At least 1 million people are still without power, and the need for basic necessities is growing. Residents are speaking out on the lack of relief, reporting shortages of food, water and medical care. Trump’s tour of Hurricane Michael’s devastation came after he spent much of Sunday golfing at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia. MSNBC reports it was Trump’s 210th day spent golfing since he became president.
Florida prison officials say they’re evacuating over 4,000 prisoners who were left stranded in dire conditions after Hurricane Michael hit. BuzzFeed News reports that families of prisoners at the Gulf Correctional Institution—who were not evacuated ahead of the storm—reported heavily damaged infrastructure and shortages of food and water in the prison.
In Georgia, where early voting in the November midterm election is already underway, election officials in Gwinnett County outside of Atlanta have rejected far more absentee ballots than any other county in the state, with nearly one out of 10 mail-in ballots thrown out. The move has alarmed voting rights groups who note that more than 60 percent of the county’s residents are Latino, black or Asian. State officials say the ballots were rejected because of allegedly mismatched signatures, incomplete forms or missing residential addresses. This comes as Georgia’s African-American Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has called on her Republican opponent to step down from his position as secretary of state following an Associated Press report alleging voter suppression ahead of the election. Abrams and civil rights groups have accused Brian Kemp of using minor discrepancies in voters’ registrations and ID cards to bar them from casting a ballot, a system that has resulted in 53,000 voter applications being put on hold. Seven out of 10 of the stalled applications are for African-American voters. After headlines, we’ll spend the rest of the hour on Republican-led voter suppression efforts ahead of the midterm elections.
BuzzFeed News reports the United Arab Emirates hired U.S. mercenaries to kill politicians in Yemen. The UAE hired the U.S. mercenary company Spear Operations Group, founded by Abraham Golan, a Hungarian Israeli living near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The group’s first target in Yemen was a local leader of al-Islah, a political party that’s been labeled a “terrorist group” by the UAE. A top commander from Spear Operations said he could not rule out that targets could simply be someone that the UAE crown prince “didn’t like.”
In Syria, a Monday deadline for anti-government fighters to retreat from a buffer zone around Syria’s last major rebel-held region in Idlib province has come and gone, with rebels refusing to surrender. The U.N. has warned a large-scale offensive could force some 800,000 people to flee and provoke a humanitarian catastrophe.
Elsewhere, Syria reopened a major commercial gateway into Jordan on Monday, simultaneously reopening a crossing into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights territory.
Meanwhile, the BBC has published a new investigation documenting the extent to which chemical weapons helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turn the tide in the war. The study found the use of chemical weapons has been widespread, with at least 106 chemical attacks since 2013 and evidence in most of the attacks pointing to the Syrian government.
In Nigeria, the militant group Boko Haram has killed 24-year-old Hauwa Liman, a nurse for the International Committee of the Red Cross who was kidnapped in March along with two other aid workers. Boko Haram killed another of the captives, Saifura Ahmed, in September. Boko Haram has killed over 20,000 people and kidnapped thousands, including many children, and fighting between the group and government forces has displaced some 2 million people since 2009.
A caravan of 1,600 Honduran migrants fleeing violence and poverty is headed for the U.S. border. The caravan, which includes families with small children, crossed into Guatemala on Monday, where it was met with police at the border. After a 2-hour standoff, the massive group was able to keep going as they make their way north toward Mexico. This is mother of four, Andrea Aleman.
Andrea Aleman: “There are no work opportunities here. One has to look for the best.”
Reporter: “How many children are you traveling with?”
Andrea Aleman: “With four, and we’re heading to the United States. We’re going to arrive with Donald Trump. He has to receive us. Just as we receive the Americans over here, they will have to accept us over there.”
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence urged the leaders of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to tell their citizens not to attempt the journey to the U.S. Trump is considering resuming family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In southwestern France, at least 12 people are dead after a powerful storm brought the equivalent of seven months’ worth of rain in just a few hours, flooding whole villages and forcing authorities to evacuate residents trapped on rooftops. The floods are the worst to hit the area in over a century. They came as meteorologists said exceptionally warm sea water along the Mediterranean coast added to the storm’s ferocity. The increased ocean temperatures are consistent with global warming caused by human activity.
Back in the United States, President Trump said Monday he would not apologize for repeatedly using a racial slur—”Pocahontas”—to describe Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. Trump’s comments came after he denied earlier on Monday that he offered to donate $1 million to Senator Warren’s favorite charity if a DNA test proved her claims of Native American ancestry. Video of a July 5 Trump rally in Montana shows the president said exactly as much. Senator Warren has said her mother told her she has Cherokee and Delaware ancestors; on Monday, she released a DNA test that provides “strong evidence” of Native American lineage in her family tree dating back six to 10 generations. She also released a video about her family heritage with comments from former colleagues who said she never claimed Native ancestry when applying for jobs.
Interviewer: “Do you remember her heritage ever coming up during the hiring process?”
Randall Kennedy: “No.”
Olin Wellborn III: “No.”
Jay Westbrook: “No. Her heritage had no bearing on her hiring, period.”
Doug Laycock: “I was chairing the committee that year. If ethnicity had been part of the discussion, I would have known about it.”
Randall Kennedy: “Her name with respect to racial minority hires? No, never.”
The controversy comes as many Native Americans have criticized Senator Warren’s use of a DNA test. Chuck Hoskin Jr., secretary of state of the Cherokee Nation, said, “Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.” Last month, Senator Warren said at a town hall meeting that she would “take a hard look” at a 2020 presidential run after the midterms.
And a new report from Stanford University shows that 99.7 percent of public comments made to the FCC were in favor of preserving net neutrality. The study looked at 800,000 unique comments that were submitted last year after FCC Chair Ajit Pai unveiled a plan to roll back net neutrality—reversing Obama-era rules barring corporate service providers from blocking access to websites, slowing down content or providing paid fast lanes for internet service.
Last month, the Justice Department sued California after Governor Jerry Brown signed the state’s own net neutrality bill into law. A number of legal challenges have been filed in response to the net neutrality repeal, including a lawsuit backed by 23 state attorneys general.