August 25, 2019

President Trump, on more than one occasion, asked Homeland Security and national security officials to consider the following: What if the United States dropped a nuclear bomb inside the eye of a hurricane, disrupting it before it could reach land?

Several people who heard Trump's suggestions, and others who read about it in a National Security Council memo, told Axios on Sunday that Trump wanted officials to start exploring his hypothesis. During one meeting at the White House, Trump's idea stunned his briefer, who was "knocked back on his heels," an attendee told Axios. "You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting. People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, 'What the f—k? What do we do with this?'"

Trump discussed the idea early in his presidency — and at one point also suggested using regular bombs as opposed to nuclear — and hasn't said anything since John Bolton became his national security adviser, Axios reports. This idea has actually been bandied about before, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it won't work because the explosives would need to have an exorbitant amount of energy to modify the hurricanes, plus radioactive fallout would spread with the trade winds, harming people and the environment.

While Trump's idea caught several people off guard, a senior administration official told Axios they didn't think it was strange at all that the president of the United States thought it would be wise to drop a nuclear bomb into the eye of a hurricane. "His goal — to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland — is not bad," the person said. "What people near the president do is they say 'I love a president who asks questions like that, who’s willing to ask tough questions.' ... It takes strong people to respond to him in the right way when stuff like this comes up." Catherine Garcia

1:43 p.m.

The look Greta Thunberg just gave President Trump might be more heated than our Earth's warming atmosphere.

The 16-year-old climate activist has become the de facto leader of worldwide protests against climate change action, helming a massive march in New York City on Friday and inspiring hundreds more happening simultaneously around the world. Her activism continued as she addressed the United Nations Climate Summit on Monday — and translated into a very fierce glare as Trump walked into the summit for a few minutes.

After Thunberg's brutal speech to the gathered world leaders, she and 15 other children filed a complaint with the UN alleging five of the world's top carbon producers are violating human rights by not doing enough to curb climate change. They want the five countries — Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Brazil, and Turkey — to reduce their emissions and get on track immediately. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:11 p.m.

Drone footage posted anonymously on YouTube last week appears to shed some light on how China is treating its ethnic minority prisoners, The Guardian reports.

The video reportedly shows Uighur or other ethnic and religious minorities wearing blue and yellow uniforms with clean shaven heads, blindfolds, and handcuffs sitting on the ground before being led away by police. The video has not been officially verified, but Nathan Ruser, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's international cyber policy center, reportedly used landmarks and the position of the sun to determine its legitimacy. He told The Guardian he believes it was likely shot at a train station in the Xinjiang province, where there is a large population of Uighurs, in August 2018. Ruser added that the prisoners were possibly being transferred to a region where the crackdown against the Uighurs, who are a Muslim minority, has been particularly strong.

In total, China has reportedly placed as many as two million Uighurs in "re-education" camps, citing "extremist behavior" as their reason for doing so. While Chinese authorities have been taking diplomats and even some journalists on tours of Xinjiang to showcase what they say is an exemplary anti-terrorism campaign, Ruser noted that the drone footage "counters the propaganda offensive China is trying to show."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized China for its treatment of Uighurs and other minority groups Sunday. "I want to make clear that China's repressive campaign in Xinjiang is not about terrorism," he said. "It's about China's attempt to erase its own citizens." Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

12:17 p.m.

After traveling to the U.S. via an emissions-free yacht and leading Friday's global climate strike from New York City, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations General Assembly Monday morning.

Thunberg told leaders, "We'll be watching you," during her emotional plea for action.

"I shouldn't be up here, I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you," she said. "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing."

Thunberg noted the science has been clear for 30 years, yet the politics and solutions needed are nowhere in sight. The numbers are uncomfortable, she says, and leaders are "still not mature enough to tell it like it is."

"You are failing us," she said. "But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you, and if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.

She told leaders they say they understand the urgency, but she doesn't want to believe them. "If you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil," she said, "and that I refuse to believe."

Watch part of her speech below, via CBS News. Taylor Watson

12:04 p.m.

President Trump made a surprise appearance at the United Nations climate summit Monday, but he didn't stick around for long.

Trump was expected to skip the gathering altogether — sure, he was scheduled to speak at a separate event focused on religious freedom and religious persecution, but the president has also never really been in tune with other countries when it comes to climate issues. That said, he showed up, listened to speeches from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (for whom he reportedly clapped), and then left. It all took about 10 minutes.

Though Trump's appearance was brief, it didn't go unnoticed. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly thanked Trump for stopping by, and made what could be considered a veiled challenge to the commander-in-chief. "Hopefully our conversations here today will be helpful to you as you make climate policy," Bloomberg said. The quip reportedly drew a round of applause.

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), who hopes to challenge Trump as the next Democratic presidential candidate, was quick to weigh in on Trump's appearance. He wasn't all that impressed. Tim O'Donnell

12:01 p.m.

In one corner, we have Ivanka Trump and Attorney General William Barr. And in the other, we have Donald Trump Jr.

These are the two sides warring for Trump's favor in an ongoing debate over gun restrictions, Politico reports. Ivanka Trump's faction is reportedly looking for increased restrictions on gun sales and stronger background checks, while Donald Trump Jr.'s is warning him against it — but neither side seems to have curried the president's favor just yet.

As more and more mass shootings make headlines, and as gun violence continues to be an epidemic across the U.S., two sides have formed in the White House. Ivanka Trump and Attorney General William Barr both insist Trump can institute "expanded background checks for gun sales" and "win back moderate suburban voters in the process," people involved in the discussions tell Politico. Donald Trump Jr., along with a top aide to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, meanwhile say Trump will lose his conservative base if he "pushes too aggressively on new gun control legislation," Politico reports. It has all amounted in absolute gridlock within the White House, with Trump reportedly staying mum on what side he prefers.

White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley called the story "ridiculous," and said "we are completely united in developing ... meaningful solutions that will protect the Second Amendment, make American communities safer and potentially prevent these types of tragedies from ever occurring again." Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:12 a.m.

It looks like the tables have turned for some House Democrats when it comes to impeaching President Trump, even if they still won't say so publicly.

The New York Times reports that a group of moderate freshman lawmakers, who have previously opposed launching an impeachment inquiry, said they were considering changing course after Trump confirmed he raised corruption accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden in a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While they told the Times they would be closely watching Thursday's hearing with acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, the lawmakers were reportedly still not entirely comfortable with the idea of going public with their opinions and would rather see a transcript of the call first.

It's not just politicians who are reconsidering, either. James Carville, a longtime Democratic strategist, had also opposed impeachment, but he now reportedly thinks that upon obtaining a transcript of Trump's call, the House should move "quick and clean" on an inquiry. "Let the Senate Republicans stew," Carville said.

Ultimately, the Times notes, the whole thing could depend on Democrats from districts that Trump won or nearly lost in 2016. Once a transcript comes out, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) said, even those tenuous situations shouldn't matter anymore. "I don't see how they can fight it any longer," Titus said. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

11:01 a.m.

Rudy Giuliani wants to set the record straight by not setting anything straight at all.

The former New York City mayor turned lawyer to President Trump has been making the media rounds to toss some unverified allegations against Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden and his apparent ties to Ukraine. That continued in a Monday morning interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo, during which Giuliani referred to Hunter Biden as "the guy who is drug challenged" and said he couldn't fully deny a reported threat Trump made to the Ukraine.

Reports in the last week have maintained Trump allegedly threatened to cut off aid to Ukraine if it didn't investigate Hunter Biden and potentially find an attack he could use against the Biden 2020 campaign. Giuliani on Monday said a report of a funding cutoff was a "false story," but when Bartiromo asked if it was "100 percent," Giuliani said "well, I can't tell you if it's 100 percent."

Bartiromo went on to accuse the media of "not covering" the alleged scandal between the Bidens and Ukraine, though Giuliani corrected her. He then said he'd be releasing "a lot more evidence" against the Bidens over the next few days. Kathryn Krawczyk

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