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Trump: “Severe punishment” for Saudis if they killed Khashoggi

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That’s still an if, Donald Trump tells Leslie Stahl on an upcoming segment of 60 Minutes, even if it’s not in most minds by now. The Saudis deny murdering Jamal Khashoggi “in every way you can imagine,” Trump says after Stahl asks the president about the conversation between Jared Kushner and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, Trump insists that the US is fully engaged on getting answers, and that the Saudis can expect “severe punishment” if they murdered Khashoggi.

Especially, Trump adds, because Khashoggi was a reporter. “You’ll be surprised to hear me say that,” he tells Stahl:

President Donald Trump said in an interview with 60 Minutes that the Saudis could be behind the disappearance of missing journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, and if so, the U.S. would inflict “severe punishment.” In a clip broadcast on “CBS This Morning,” Mr. Trump said there is a lot at stake “and maybe especially so because this man was a reporter.” …

“There’s a lot at stake,” Mr. Trump continued. “And, maybe especially so because this man was a reporter. There’s something, you’ll be surprised to hear me say that, there’s something really terrible and disgusting about that if that was the case.”

This sounds ominous for the Saudis, but some may be inclined to dismiss it as bluster, especially with the caveat of proving the allegation. Trump has spent the last two years casting doubt on Russian interference, his critics will say. That’s true … rhetorically, and sometimes embarrassingly so. All Trump has to do to avoid acting is insist that there isn’t enough evidence for that conclusion.

Actions do speak louder than words, though, and Trump has also imposed serious-to-severe diplomatic and economic sanctions on Russia. Some were aimed at the Russian-interference campaign, but Trump expanded them greatly after Russia’s own assassination attempt against Sergei Skripal in the UK. Trump landed foursquare on Russian responsibility for that shocking attack, and that precedent comes much closer to the Khashoggi disappearance than does election interference. Khashoggi’s status as both a reporter and a US resident raises the stakes considerably on that precedent too, as it should.

So perhaps Trump is warning the Saudis as to what will be coming. It won’t, however, take the form of cutting off arms sales. Trump essentially tells Stahl that he won’t cut off America’s nose to spite its face:

When asked what kind of punishments he may pursue if Saudi Arabia is found to be behind the disappearance, Mr. Trump wouldn’t commit to sanctions or cutting sales of military equipment to Saudi from American companies.

“I’ll tell you what I don’t want to do,” Mr. Trump said, “I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that. And you know what, there are other ways of punishing.”

Trump talks about the loss of American jobs, but it’s more about the loss of American influence. The US needs the Saudis as a counterweight to Iran, especially now that Turkey has moved significantly into the orbit of Russia and even Tehran. We can’t afford to let the Saudis drift away at the same time, which limits our options. If the Russians co-opt the Saudis too, we may as well pack up and depart the whole region, which would leave Israel in a very, very bad position. The punishment, whatever it may be, will have to be more personal and less public than perhaps most would want for such an awful crime.

Assuming, of course, that the Saudis did it. They’re denying it “vehemently,” according to AFP:

Saudi insists Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor whose writings have been critical of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left the building safely but has yet to offer visual evidence of this. …

The Saudi delegation was in Turkey and due to have talks this weekend in Ankara and take part in a working group on the disappearance, official Turkish media said. The NTV channel said the 11 person delegation had on Friday inspected the consulate in Istanbul.

Riyadh has warmly welcomed the creation of the working group but Interior Minister Prince Abdel Aziz bin Saud bin Nayef slammed claims that the kingdom ordered Khashoggi to be killed inside the consulate. He described the allegations as “baseless allegations and lies”.

Interestingly, the Turks seem to want to dial down the “sensationalism” surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance:

The spokesman of Erdogan’s ruling party, Omer Celik, acknowledged Saturday that there were “extremely sensational claims” about Khashoggi’s fate in the media and said there would be “severe consequences” for anyone found responsible if they were true.

“Far from the speculation, work is being carried out in the most sensitive way to find out what happened,” he said in televised comments.

AFP notes that Turkey wants the US on its side over the Khashoggi case. That may explain why Pastor Andrew Brunson won his release yesterday after prosecutors ‘recommended’ time served as a punishment for bogus charges of terror support. Trump, who will meet with Brunson at the White House today, denies any deal took place at all:

No deal from the deal-making president? Hmmmm. That might worry the Saudis more than Trump’s declaration on 60 Minutes. The US has plenty of ways to get even with Salman if necessary, and in very personal ways if Trump so chooses.

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The robot dog that will murder you will also dance on your grave

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To cleanse the palate, obviously I don’t know if there’ll be “graves” as such after the robot apocalypse. I assume it’ll depend on their olfactory capabilities. If they’re not equipped to detect scent, maybe the ‘bots will just leave us where we lie to decay in the sun, our streets transformed into rivers of putrefied viscera from the sheer mass of leaking carcasses.

It’s my great privilege to share thoughts like that with you at the end of a long day.

I’m curious about what possessed Boston Dynamics to put this clip together. Could be nothing more than boredom or a creative way to show off Spot’s motor skills. But I wonder if all the freaky-deaky videos of humanoid robots demonstrating ever more impressive feats of mobility has created a strange sort of PR problem for them. They don’t want every promo they do to seem menacing, however inadvertently. Soon they’ll have people breaking into their factory, trying to stop them before they build the first T-800. Time to do something whimsical instead.

This thing is set to go on sale next year, by the way. Not to everyday consumers; the price tag will likely ensure that it remains a corporate plaything. But you’ll be seeing them around sooner than you think. Plus, some ultra-rich tech bros are destined to buy them and show them off as look-what-I-got novelties. We all know who the first one will be.

Weird but true: In a few decades’ time, this thing shaking its ass in your face as it does a victory twerk might be the last thing you ever see.

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WOW! Claire McCaskill Speaks Out After Project Veritas Reveals She’s a Complete Fraud — Lies and Blames Hawley (VIDEO)

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James O’Keefe strikes again!

On Monday evening, Project Veritas released an undercover video of endangered Missouri Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill admitting to being deceptive about her stance on firearms and immigration policies.

McCaskill is a red-state Democrat Senator so she has to appear pro 2nd Amendment to her constituents because Missourians love their guns.

Claire McCaskill’s staffers were also caught on video saying she puts on a moderate front to get the Republican votes.

The top staffer then continued saying McCaskill believes everything Obama does.

THIS WAS A DEVASTATING VIDEO! Claire McCaskill was COMPLETELY EXPOSED!

Senator McCaskill’s staffers admitted she is pro-DACA, pro-DREAMERS and against the border wall even though she runs ads to the contrary claiming she is strong on border security.
The Project Veritas Video has been viewed over 267,000 times so far!

On Tuesday morning Claire McCaskill responded to the stunning revelations.
McCaskill went on Ozarks First to try to dig herself out of this deep hole.


Claire lied some more, blamed Josh Hawley for the undercover video.

Senator McCaskill: I’ve been very up front about all my positions. I remember this person was trying to get me to say something different than what my positions are… It is startling that Josh Hawley would be part of fraudulently embedding something in my campaign.

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Coincidence or corruption? In Andrew Cuomo’s government it’s hard to tell

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Given the parade of people in the orbit of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who have recently either been shipped off to jail or come under investigation, it’s amazing that none of the dirt ever sticks to Cuomo himself. How does he account for the various people who funneled money toward his campaign, and then were later discovered to have benefitted from state government “generosity” and wound up in handcuffs? It’s all just a coincidence.

Today we’re hearing news of yet another of these amazing coincidences. This story starts with a situation we first covered more than a year ago and it dealt with some donors who helped Cuomo out during his 2014 campaign. A medical corporation named Crystal Run Healthcare was run by a few people who had funneled more than $400K to Cuomo’s campaigns over the previous four years. When the “Buffalo Billion” was announced (a plan to invest a billion dollars of taxpayer money into projects creating jobs in the western, upstate region) Crytal Run was at the front of the line. They wound up receiving more than $25M dollars for two new medical centers.

But there were some fishy elements to the story. First of all, they had actually broken ground on both of those new projects six months before the grants were even announced or applications were being taken. It’s almost as if they knew they had the money coming from somewhere. Then we found out that the Crystal Run had coughed up a flurry of maximum donations only weeks before the checks to them were cut. In addition to that, there was a meeting held less than two weeks after the announcement of the grants where Crystal Run executives met with state officials, including a top aide from inside Cuomo’s office.

How did Cuomo explain it? It was all just a happy coincidence and the meeting didn’t matter because they didn’t even talk about the grants. The meeting was about Medicaid.

But now the local press has gotten hold of emails from Crystal Run showing that they did indeed discuss their two new developments and the grants, and that the state representatives at the meeting were “very receptive” to their requests. (NY Post)

Now, despite earlier denials from everyone involved, it turns out company execs got a private sitdown with top state officials in 2015, just 12 days after Albany started seeking applications for $1.2 billion in development grants. Crystal Run wound up with $25.4 million of that (the only for-profit company to qualify) for two projects.

Team Cuomo insists those projects never even got mentioned at the meeting, saying it was only about Medicaid. Yet the Albany Times Union reports that an e-mail sent two weeks later by Crystal Run’s chief legal officer stressed that company execs had “shared our vision for growth,” including the two “expansions,” with the health commissioner and a top aide who worked in Cuomo’s office.

Both officials, the e-mail noted, “were, obviously, supportive, as we are bringing real jobs to real people” — and had agreed that “further discussion was warranted” with the state economic-development agency “at the highest levels.”

How much more evidence do we need at this point? Cuomo’s spokespeople obviously lied about what went on at that meeting. They have records from the company who benefitted from it after making massive contributions. (Two of the people involved in organizing these meetings, donations, and windfalls have already been convicted or indicted on related charges.) And yet Andrew Cuomo continues to insist that all the grants were handled fairly and above board. These are all just amazing coincidences. And somehow, while his closest aides head off to the crowbar motel, Cuomo floats along and prosecutors can’t seem to lay a glove on him. On top of that, he’s on track to cruise to electoral victory for another four years in office.

I guess that’s just a happy coincidence too, eh?

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