The President Whips Up A Frenzy Of Fear Heading Into The Midterms, While Saudis Work To Craft An Excuse For Murder To Satisfy An Audience Of One…
Trump was in Texas last night to rally for Republican Senator Ted Cruz, which in itself is far less of a surprise than many media outlets made it out to be: politicians often at least publicly set aside seemingly irreconcilable differences for the good of the party, and though Trump’s attacks on Cruz during the 2016 campaign were extraordinarily brutal and nasty, in the end, this was no different. Beforehand, CNN’s Kaitlyn Collins asked the President whether he now regrets one of his wildest claims: implicating Cruz’ father might’ve had a role in the John F. Kennedy assassination. “I don’t regret anything, honestly,” Trump replied; “It all worked out very nicely.” And if Cruz happens to lose to Democratic hopeful Beto O’Rourke, Trump will be at least partly responsible for the upset, because “Lyin’ Ted” is something that’s stuck. Trump did attack O’Rourke, calling him a “stone-cold phony”. But if we were O’Rourke, we’d kinda like at least the “stone-cold” part…
And earlier in the day, in a span of about 10 minutes, in a brief meeting with the media on the White House lawn, Trump spouted a bunch of conspiracy theories and freshly plucked promises in rapid fire succession. Including:
• “Rioting” in California over opposition to that state’s widespread embrace of sanctuary cities. Which most everybody we know in California (and major media sources) tell us is something that’s very definitely not happening. At least not yet…
• “Giving” a 10% tax cut to the middle class. Which of course he can’t. Only Congress can authorize a tax cut. And the House is not in session again until after Election Day, since every member is up for reelection, so they are all out campaigning. Which probably means Trump will issue some kind of proclamation between now and election day, and then the House may or may not act on it, but either way that’d be after the election.
• “Unknown Middle Easterners” infiltrating a migrant caravan. That caravan, which originated in Honduras, is on its way through Mexico right now. When we first reported on it last week, we told you Trump saw it as a clear “winner” this election season as he Tweeted “Great Midterm issue for Republicans!” The President makes no attempt to tie the addition of potential terrorists to the mix to any type of intelligence he’s received. Seems more like the outcome of someone sitting around watching Fox and trying to figure out how to make it sound even worse and more threatening. In fact, when reporters pressed him on where he’s getting his information, the President turned it on them: telling them to go and find these folks in the caravan themselves. Trump also said of the caravan: “I think the Democrats had something to do with it.”
And yeah, all politicians lie. And yeah, Trump does not ever do subtle so why should we expect anything different? But this unceasing, almost exclusively negative and seemingly fact-free barrage is–as Trump might say–unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, even from him. “Voter satisfaction is the enemy of voter turnout,” the Washington Post quotes White House political director Bill Stepien as saying, spinning the whole thing as a necessity borne out of Trump’s success.
Meanwhile, the President remains excruciatingly on the fence about Saudi Arabia and its leaders’ alleged role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. On the one hand saying (in the same briefing with reporters) that “I am not satisfied with what I heard”, but in almost the same breath: “I don’t want to lose all of that investment that’s being made in our country. I don’t want to lose the million jobs…” Which is a completely fictitious number that grows exponentially every time Trump brings up the subject, as the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler points out.
Trump also praised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as “a person who can keep things under check.” He added, “I mean that in a positive way”.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin met privately with the Crown Prince in what the U.S. clearly hoped would be a low key get together after Mnuchin opted out of participating in a big business conference in the Kingdom, which opened today. Except that the Saudi Foreign Ministry Tweeted it right out (right above a Tweet denying all involvement in anything):
While the Saudi business conference is largely being boycotted by Western governments and businesses, Asian countries and Russia are still participating. Which supports Trump’s narrative that being too harsh on the Saudis could lead to the U.S. to lose business from the cash-rich state. In other words, there’s a choice to be made: and that’s whether money is more important than murder.
The Trump Administration dispatched CIA Director Gina Haspel to Turkey. That as Turkey’s President Erdogan this morning laid out the evidence his investigators have gathered about the premeditation of Khashoggi’s murder by the Saudi government. His account details how officials back at home were notified when Khashoggi first visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to do some paperwork related to his marriage, after which they quickly put a comprehensive plan for a hit into action. However, the Turkish President’s comments do not seem to explicitly draw a direct line from the Crown Prince to the assassination.
Prior to that speech, more damning evidence against the Saudi claim that the death of Khashoggi was just the result of a fistfight that got out of hand: CNN released surveillance photos of Khashoggi entering the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul, and then a look-alike in the same or nearly identical clothing leaving the embassy shortly afterwards. Which sure looks like a premeditated effort to fool surveillance cameras they knew were there.
Here are the side-by-side photos: