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April 25, 2018

Don Blankenship, the Republican candidate for Senate in West Virginia, may want to update his outdated vocabulary.

While speaking to a West Virginia radio show Monday, Blankenship referred to the father of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao as "a wealthy Chinaperson." The comment came as Blankenship has been facing fierce opposition from Republican establishment leaders who want to see a more traditional GOP candidate in West Virginia, reports The New York Times including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Chao's husband.

Blankenship, a former coal mining executive, spent a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety standards and is still on parole. He has been the subject of attack ads paid for by a super PAC that backs McConnell that emphasize that Blankenship is a "convicted criminal" and accuse him of purposefully pumping coal slurry into local drinking water.

In response to the segments, Blankenship told the radio show that McConnell had conflicts of interest because of his marriage to Chao. Chao's father is "a wealthy Chinaperson," Blankenship said, per the Times, adding that McConnell is "soft on China" because of his connections there.

Blankenship himself has considered seeking citizenship in China — a country he said is successful because of "dictatorial capitalism" — and once started a business to import generators from China. He stopped running the trade company when he was sentenced to prison, however. Blankenship's own ads describe his sentencing as an unfair and overblown misunderstanding, caused by an "Obama judge" and team of "Obama prosecutors" who wanted to bring him down because of their hatred of the coal industry.

Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

12:55a.m.

Dennis Hof, a Republican candidate for the Nevada state legislature, died on Tuesday, but that might help him get even more votes, his campaign manager said Wednesday.

Hof, 72, owned five legal brothels and a strip club, wrote the book The Art of the Pimp, and appeared on the HBO show Cathouse. His name will stay on the ballot, campaign manager Chuck Muth told Reuters, and he has several things going for him — not only are there more registered Republicans than Democrats in his state Assembly district, but "there are a lot of Republicans who were uncomfortable voting for Dennis because of the nature of his business and they now know that he is not the one who will be serving. They will feel much more comfortable casting the ballot for him knowing there will be another Republican to replace him."

Assembly District 36 covers three counties, and if Hof wins, each county's board of commissioners would nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy, then hold a joint meeting to discuss the nominees and pick one to replace Hof before the 2019 legislative session starts, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Catherine Garcia

12:37a.m.

President Trump gave quite the interview to The Associated Press on Tuesday, and Stephen Colbert ran through some of the highlights on Wednesday's Late Show: Whether it was appropriate to call Stormy Daniels "Horseface," Don Jr.'s meeting with Russian officials in Trump Tower, and, especially, Trump's continued ambivalence over climate change. Trump said he felt comfortable disagreeing with 97 percent of the world's scientists because he has an inherent, inherited knack for science, thanks to an uncle who was a professor at MIT. Colbert had some questions.

"First of all, why did you bring up your science uncle if you never talked to him about science?" Colbert asked. "And second, you have a 'natural instinct for science'? That's not how knowledge works. You don't inherit it from your uncle! The most you ever get from your uncle is your own nose back." Of course, Trump "and his petrochemical pals would like you to ignore global warming altogether, but that may not be possible soon," he said, "because a new study says that beer prices could double because of climate change. Or as the brothers at Sigma Phi Epsilon put it, 'Climate change just got real.'" And yes, there is a shout out to Brett Kavanaugh. Watch below. Peter Weber

12:10a.m.

The Washington Post published Jamal Khashoggi's presumptive final column on Wednesday, with a somber note from Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah.

Attiah wrote that she received the column, titled "What the Arab World Needs Most is Free Expression," from Khashoggi's translator and assistant one day after he was reported missing in Istanbul earlier this month. The Post didn't publish it right away, Attiah explained, hoping she and Khashoggi could edit the column together, but "now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for the Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for."

In the column, Khashoggi discusses the 2018 Freedom of the World report, which declares that just one country in the Arab world, Tunisia, can be classified as "free." Three other countries are "partly free" and the rest are "not free," which Khashoggi found unacceptable. "Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed," he said, leaving them "unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives."

He wrote about the crackdown on writers and newspapers in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and the importance of providing a "platform for Arab voices." People are facing poverty, poor education, and mismanagement, he concluded, and if there could be a forum "isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face." Read the entire column at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

October 17, 2018

With the midterms only 20 days away, President Trump has been "sharing his thoughts on a variety of topics," Trevor Noah said on Wednesday's Daily Show, "including his favorite Chinese hoax, climate change." He recapped Trump's argument: "Trump says he doesn't believe in manmade climate change because his uncle was a scientist, and that means Trump has a 'natural instinct' for science. ... That's not how it works. If a pilot has a heart attack, they're never like: 'Is anyone on this plane related to a pilot?!?'"

But the question everyone really wants the answer to, Noah said, is this: "Does Trump believe Saudi Arabia was behind the disappearance and likely murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi?" Trump's critics say he's ignoring coldblooded murder by the Saudis because of money, and Trump seems to agree. "Say what you want about Trump, but he wears his moral bankruptcy on his sleeve," Noah marveled.

"President Trump is so eager to protect his possible weapons order that not only has he said, despite evidence, that he believes Saudi Arabia's side of the story, he's also said that they're the real victims here," Noah said — just as he had with a certain Supreme Court justice. "You're going to bring Brett Kavanaugh into this?" he gawked. "I like how Trump's way of dealing with an extremely sensitive issue is to bring in another extremely sensitive issue. He's like, 'Here to discuss school shootings, special guest speaker Bill Cosby!'"

"But you know what's funny?" Noah said. "In many ways, this is like the Kavanaugh situation. Trump says he wants to find out what happened, but in reality, he's already made up his mind. And you might be saying, 'Oh but Trevor, how do you know that the Saudi Arabians killed him? You're not a detective.' And that's true. But my uncle was a detective, so I've got it in my blood." Watch below. Peter Weber

October 17, 2018

In an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is "appropriate and independent," and when everything is over, "the public will have confidence that the cases we brought were warranted by the evidence, and that it was an appropriate use of resources."

Rosenstein would not speculate on when the investigation might be finished, but he did note that it has already uncovered a massive effort by Russians to interfere in the election. "I have a solemn responsibility to make sure that cases like that are pursued and prosecuted, and I'm pleased the president has been supportive of that," he said. Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May 2017 after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation.

Rosenstein also would not comment on reports that he suggested secretly recording President Trump, an allegation he has denied, or how that affected their relationship. "The president knows that I am prepared to do this job as long as he wants me to do this job," he said. "You serve at the pleasure of the president, and there's never been any ambiguity about that in my mind." Catherine Garcia

October 17, 2018

Wednesday was Don McGahn's last day as White House counsel, The Associated Press reports.

A person inside the White House confirmed that McGahn has officially stepped down, after a 21-month tenure. During an interview with AP on Tuesday, President Trump said Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone would replace McGahn, and the president reportedly had a 20-minute farewell meeting with McGahn on Wednesday. McGahn served as the Trump campaign's general counsel, and in August, Trump announced McGahn would leave after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

During his time in the White House, McGahn pushed for young conservatives to fill the Supreme Court, and reportedly threatened to quit in 2017 when Trump ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He also cooperated with the Mueller investigation, sitting for about 30 hours of interviews. Catherine Garcia

October 17, 2018

While President Trump has been adamant about waiting for an investigation to take place before making any judgments, Rudy Giuliani told The Washington Post on Wednesday many senior members of the administration concluded last week that the Saudis ordered the murder of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi disappeared from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, and Turkey has said he was murdered inside the building by 15 Saudi agents. Turkish officials say they have an audio recording that proves Khashoggi was killed and dismembered, and U.S. officials have said privately they do not doubt this account, the Post reports. There is no definitive proof that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, but there's also no reason to think he did not plan the operation, U.S. officials said.

The Trump administration and Saudi royal family are now trying to come up with an explanation for what happened that does not implicate the crown prince, the Post reports. U.S. intelligence reportedly discovered before Khashoggi's disappearance that the crown prince was trying to lure him from his home in Virginia to Saudi Arabia, and he told friends he did not trust overtures he was receiving from people inside the Saudi government.

Trump speculated earlier this week that "rogue killers" were behind Khashoggi's suspected death, and on Wednesday became defensive, telling reporters he's "not giving cover" to the crown prince. Giuliani, Trump's adviser and lawyer, told the Post "the only question is, was it directed from the crown prince or the king — or was it a group that was trying to please him?" He added, "I know the bloom is off the rose with the crown prince." Catherine Garcia

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