President Trump “on Friday morning signed into law a far-reaching budget deal that will boost spending by hundreds of billions of dollars and allow the federal government to reopen after a brief shutdown.” Trump’s “signature came quickly after the House gave final approval early Friday to the deal, hours after a one-man blockade by” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “delayed the votes and forced the government to briefly close. … [T]he government will reopen before many Americans were aware it had closed, with a deal that includes about $300 billion in additional funds over two years for military and nonmilitary programs, almost $90 billion in disaster relief in response to last year’s hurricanes and wildfires, and a higher statutory debt ceiling.” (New York Times)
THE DETAILS. “The measure faced opposition from the right and left, but lawmakers were loath to force a protracted shutdown fight. And many lawmakers were eager to see higher spending on defense and domestic programs.
“The House vote, around 5:30 a.m., was 240-186.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi “had urged her members to oppose the bill over the GOP’s failure to resolve the standoff over 700,000 Dreamers, but her efforts ultimately fell short. Seventy-three Democrats ended up backing the bipartisan package, which came after months of closed-door talks. … The Senate had earlier passed the measure on a 71-28 vote shortly before 2 a.m.” (Politico)
ROB PORTER. “White House officials conceded Thursday that they regretted the way they handled accusations against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned Wednesday after two former wives publicly accused him of abusing them. But they refused to provide any information about when … Trump’s most senior advisers first learned about the episodes.” Porter “abruptly departed the West Wing on Thursday afternoon, one day after” chief of staff John Kelly “and other senior officials had issued statements defending him and said they would prefer that he remain in his post. Among the questions he left behind was whether … Kelly and other members of … Trump’s inner circle had been willing to ignore accusations of domestic violence to protect a trusted aide. Raj Shah, the deputy White House press secretary, said that … Kelly had not been made ‘fully aware’ of them until this week. But two people close to the White House said that … Kelly and Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff for operations, as well as” White House counsel Don McGahn “had known of the issues since late fall.” (New York Times)
KELLY. “West Wing staffers continue to wonder why Kelly would keep the Porter allegations from the president, and why he defended Porter so aggressively when presented with allegations. …. Porter’s history with women had been known to Kelly for months, a source familiar with the matter said. (Porter has been working with a temporary security clearance because the allegations surfaced in an F.B.I. background interview.) According to a source, Kelly at first pushed back when White House officials wanted him to issue a second statement walking back his initial strong defense of Kelly. Kelly ultimately wrote that he was ‘shocked by the new allegations.’
“The crisis also raises questions about Hope Hicks’s decision-making, and whether her romantic relationship with Porter clouded her judgment. According to a source, Hicks did not get a sign off from Trump for the White House’s initial statement defending Porter, in which Kelly was quoted calling Porter a ‘man of true integrity.’ … Hicks continued to defend Porter in private, a source said, telling people she thinks the allegations aren’t true.” (Vanity Fair)
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"Saudi Arabia said Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist who disappeared more than two weeks ago, had died after an argument and fistfight with unidentified men inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Eighteen men have been arrested and are being investigated in the case, Saudi state-run media reported without identifying any of them. State media also reported that Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials had been dismissed."
"Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is scrutinizing how a collection of activists and pundits intersected with WikiLeaks, the website that U.S. officials say was the primary conduit for publishing materials stolen by Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s team has recently questioned witnesses about the activities of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, including his contacts with WikiLeaks, and has obtained telephone records, according to the people familiar with the matter."
"Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections ... Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice." Mueller has faced pressure to wrap up the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, said an official, who would receive the results of the investigation and have "some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released," if he remains at his post.
"The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her alleged role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of 'Project Lakhta,' a foreign influence operation they said was designed 'to sow discord in the U.S. political system' by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and the National Football League national-anthem protests."