October 8, 2019

A number of President Trump's confidants don't think it's a wise idea for the White House to try to equate the Ukraine scandal and the Russia investigation, Politico reports.

"Russia was never real," an outside Trump adviser said. "Ukraine is." Another source close to the Trump re-election campaign called the Russia investigation a "complete and utter fantasy," but said that Trump's communications with Ukraine's governments were "unseemly...not a ghost like Russia."

Trump's allies told Politico that they're reluctant to challenge the president directly about how to handle the impeachment inquiry, but they don't think he'll be able to skirt around this as successfully as he did the Russia probe. One Republican close to Trump said that his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, showed a "lack of sophistication" and "familiarity with how the government works and the campaign works."

As for the campaign? That's what the advisers and consultants are most concerned about. Politico notes that the sources don't believe Trump will ultimately be removed from office because of the Ukraine situation, but they don't buy the campaign's argument that the impeachment inquiry could actually help boost his support, and believe that it could do real damage to his 2020 hopes. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

1:56 a.m.

When an Idaho farmer wasn't going to be able to harvest all of his potatoes ahead of an early hard freeze, his neighbors quickly rallied and rushed to save his crop.

Last week, meteorologists in southeast Idaho shared a forecast farmers weren't expecting: a cold snap on Wednesday, the earliest deep freeze in decades. They scrambled to harvest their potatoes before they were ruined, but one farmer in the town of Hamer wasn't going to be able to clear his field in time.

That's when people like Jason Larson and other community members jumped into action. Larson told CNN other farmers sent employees over to help the man, with 50 ultimately offering their assistance. Some had been up until midnight taking care of their own crops, but that didn't stop them from working from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., when the last potato was harvested.

Idaho produces 32 percent of American potatoes, and Larson estimates they saved hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of potatoes on the farm. "What people do is they help their neighbor," he told CNN. "There really wasn't a second thought about it." Catherine Garcia

1:23 a.m.

At least 40 people were killed in Typhoon Hagibis this weekend, one of the worst typhoons to hit Japan in recent memory.

Hagibis made landfall Saturday on Honshu island and went out to sea on Sunday morning, bringing devastating rain to central and eastern Japan; meteorologists said that in several areas, about 40 percent of annual rainfall was recorded over the weekend, Japan's NHK reports. At least 16 people are missing and 189 injured, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said more than 110,000 people are participating in search and rescue efforts.

Houses are flooded, levees have collapsed, trains and bridges are damaged, and roads across the country are under mud. One woman in her 70s died when she fell from a helicopter after rescuers failed to secure her safety harness. More rain is expected on Monday, and authorities are asking people to stay away from rivers and keep their eyes open for landslides. Catherine Garcia

12:46 a.m.

During a three-day conference held by the pro-Trump group American Priority last week, a video was shown depicting a fake President Trump gunning down, stabbing, and assaulting members of the media and political rivals, The New York Times reports.

The conference was held at Trump National Doral Miami, and the footage was recorded by an attendee, who passed it along to the Times through an intermediary. In the video, Trump's head is superimposed on the body of a man who enters the "Church of Fake News," where the faces of parishioners are covered up by media outlet logos and the heads of political opponents like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The fake Trump shoots and stabs people in the head, lights them on fire, and knocks them down, the Times reports. Parts of the video appeared on YouTube last year, and the conference's organizer, Alex Phillips, told the Times the clip was played as part of an exhibit on memes. "Content was submitted by third parties and was not associated with or endorsed by the conference in any official capacity," he said. "American Priority rejects all political violence and aims to promote a healthy dialogue about the preservation of free speech. This matter is under review."

The conference was attended by Donald Trump Jr., former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Sanders told the Times she didn't know anything about the video, and a person close to Trump Jr. said he also didn't see it. President Trump routinely calls the media the enemy of the people and describes any news that is even remotely critical as being fake; in 2017, he tweeted a video of a wrestler body slamming the CNN logo. Catherine Garcia

October 13, 2019

After hearing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threaten for two years to launch an assault against the Kurds in Syria, President Trump and senior administration officials did not think he would ever go through with it, six people with knowledge of the matter told Axios' Jonathan Swan.

Their discussions started in 2017, with Erdogan telling Trump the Kurds, who control northeastern Syria, are a threat to Turkey and need to be away from the border. Whenever he would say this, Axios reports, Trump would let Erdogan know that if he did invade, he would have to be solely responsible for whatever happened. During one conversation, Trump conveyed that Erdogan shouldn't mess with U.S. troops in Syria, but intimated that they wouldn't be there much longer and would not stay around to help the Kurds, people with knowledge of the matter told Axios.

Usually, Erdogan would take a few steps back, but last Sunday, he told Trump the invasion was on. Trump soon announced that U.S. troops would be pulled back from the border, a move that sparked bipartisan outrage, with lawmakers blasting Trump for turning on the United States' Kurdish allies. Erdogan thought Trump would reel him in, Turkish sources told Swan, and now he is in over his head as he faces international condemnation. Read more at Axios. Catherine Garcia

October 13, 2019

With her two wins on Sunday, Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history.

Biles took home two gold medals — one for the balance beam and the other for her floor exercise — and now has 25 World Championship medals. Earlier in the competition, she won gold in the team competition, all-around and vault; she came in fifth on the uneven bars. The 22-year-old's Sunday wins put her ahead of Vitaly Scherbo, who earned the previous record of 23 world medals during the 1990s.

Biles' floor performance was so outstanding, with a triple-twisting double back, she earned a score of 15.133, one point higher than the second-place finisher, U.S. gymnast Sunisa Lee. Catherine Garcia

October 13, 2019

President Trump made a grave mistake by pulling back troops in Syria last week, allowing Turkey to launch a military offensive against the Kurds, a retired four-star Marine general told CNN on Sunday.

"There is blood on Trump's hands for abandoning our Kurdish allies," Gen. John Allen said. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces worked with the United States for several years to fight the Islamic State, and controls the northeastern border area. Since the Turkish assault began last week, video footage has emerged purportedly showing Turkish-backed militia fighters shooting Kurdish prisoners. This, Allen said, is a "full-blown ethnic cleansing."

The Kurds oversee prisons holding thousands of ISIS fighters, their families, and supporters, and hundreds escaped during fighting over the weekend. Allen — the former commander of American forces in Afghanistan and former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS during the Obama administration — said this chaos was "completely foreseeable" and "what happens when Trump follows his instincts and because of his alignment with autocrats."

Allen is also unmoved by Trump's approval of $50 million in aid to Syria. This gesture rings "hollow," he said, and there's no way to say if the money will go where it should. "Who's going to administer it and for whom?" Allen said. "Hundreds of thousands are fleeing and the relief agencies are on the move." Catherine Garcia

October 13, 2019

President Trump's decision to move U.S. troops from northern Syria, paving the way for Turkey to launch an assault against the Kurds, prompted the Kurds on Sunday to reach a protection deal with the Syrian government.

Under this agreement, Syrian government troops will be able to enter Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria for the first time in years, The New York Times reports. The United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia, spent the last several years as allies, fighting against the Islamic State.

There are still ISIS sleeper cells in Syria, and many fear that the Turkish invasion could lead to the terror group's resurgence. Thousands of suspected ISIS supporters are being held in prisons guarded by Kurds, and hundreds escaped during fighting on Saturday and Sunday. Two U.S. officials told the Times the military recently tried to transfer five dozen "high value" ISIS detainees, but feeling betrayed, the Kurds said no.

The Syrian government, which counts Iran and Russia as its allies, said on Sunday it will fight the "Turkish aggression," while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his troops have control over about 70 square miles of territory in northern Syria. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday morning announced all American troops will withdraw from northern Syria, in order to stay out of the crossfire. Catherine Garcia

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