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February 13, 2018

President Trump's Cabinet has faced an onslaught of accusations about improper travel, and it looks like the latest to join their ranks will be Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, USA Today reports. While the VA inspector general's findings have not yet been made public, a report likely to be issued this week is expected to ding Shulkin for a potentially unnecessary 10-day trip to Denmark and London last July, during which taxpayers allegedly paid for his wife's airfare. Additionally, the couple reportedly spent half the trip sightseeing, ventures Shulkin allegedly improperly directed his staff to arrange.

Shulkin is an Obama administration holdover, having formerly served as the undersecretary for health at the VA. His trip to Denmark and London also involved meetings with health-care and veterans professionals, and he had designated the travel as "essential."

The VA inspector general's report is also expected to cite Shulkin for improperly accepting tickets for him and his wife to attend Wimbledon. Shulkin apparently claimed the person who provided the tickets was a friend, although ethics officials believe otherwise after the provider failed to remember Shulkin's wife's name.

Shulkin's lawyers heavily pushed back against the anticipated findings, claiming the Denmark trip was "essential travel" and that saying otherwise shows a "fundamental lack of understanding of the secretary's work and the VA's mission." The lawyers additionally argue that it is unimportant whether or not Shulkin was given the Wimbledon tickets by a personal friend because the provider, a strategic adviser to the U.K.'s Invictus Games, was not seeking to influence him in any way. Jeva Lange

8:00a.m.

Saudi Arabia has indicted 11 people in connection with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and five of them may receive the death penalty.

The Saudi public prosecutor, Saud al-Mojeb, announced the charges during a news conference Thursday, which came over a month after the journalist, who was critical of the kingdom, went missing at the Saudi consulate in Turkey, per The Washington Post. Al-Mojeb says a 15-person team was sent to the consulate to abduct Khashoggi, but when he resisted, they decided to kill him, The New York Times reports. The Saudi public prosecutor says they did so by injecting Khashoggi with an overdose of a sedative and then dismembering his body, per CNN.

After Khashoggi went missing in early October, the kingdom's narrative of events changed dramatically. At first, it said Khashoggi actually left the consulate safely, only to later say he was killed accidentally during a fistfight. Then Saudi officials suggested the killing was premeditated. Now, the public prosecutor claims the decision to kill Khashoggi was made on the spot, The New York Times reports.

Saudi Arabia also maintains that the operation was carried out without the knowledge of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, even though officials say this is unlikely, the Times reports. "It is obvious that this murder was previously planned and that the order had come from high-level authorities in Saudi Arabia," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says. Brendan Morrow

6:26a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May urged Parliament on Thursday to approve a draft Brexit deal her government had negotiated with the European Union. But before she spoke, several Cabinet ministers had resigned in protest of her deal, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, and the junior Brexit, education, and Northern Ireland ministers. Britain's pound plummeted after Raab's resignation.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called the deal a "huge and damaging failure," suggesting Labour MPs won't vote for the agreement, and with defections in May's Conservative Party, it's not clear she has the votes, endangering her tenure as prime minister. May asked lawmakers to approve the divorce deal "in the national interest," arguing that she made "the right choices, not the easy ones," and that having no deal would be worse than the agreement she reached to cleave Britain from the EU while maintaining close ties. She emphasized that this is just a draft, while lawmakers jeered and called on her to resign.

May got a majority of her Cabinet to approve the agreement on Wednesday, though many of them did not look happy about it. Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on Friday, March 29, 2019. Peter Weber

5:44a.m.

In an interview with The Daily Caller on Wednesday, President Trump bizarrely claimed that you have to show some sort of voter ID to buy a box of cereal and laid out a novel conspiracy theory to explain Republican losses via voter fraud: "When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in, and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It's really a disgrace what's going on." There's not a lot comedians can add to that, but they gave it a try on Wednesday's late-night shows.

That's "a for-real quote from the president of the United States," Jimmy Kimmel reminded viewers on Kimmel Live. "People go to their cars to put on different hats? Our polls are being infested with a team of masters of disguise!" He went on to mock Florida and also its junior senator, Marco Rubio, whose own theory of voter fraud invented some new football terminology.

"That's right, President Trump accused people of voting illegally by changing clothes in the cars and getting back in line — or in Florida's case, putting on a shirt and getting back in line," Seth Meyers joked on Late Night. "I swear our president thinks in cartoons. He probably thinks the Village People is one guy." He suggested that Trump might actually be the person in disguise in the news, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

4:55a.m.

President Trump is reportedly angry that his aides didn't warn him skipping a Veterans Day memorial at an American military cemetery in France would make him look bad, and he's under fire for his promotion of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "We're learning some interesting stuff about Whitaker's past," including his judicial nomination criteria, as outlined during his 2014 unsuccessful run for a Senate seat in Iowa.

"In the opinion of the current attorney general of the United States, if you're not a Christian, you won't be a good judge," Colbert summarized. "But it's right there in the Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, yada, yada, yada, what would Jesus do?" Whitaker is also apparently "steeped" in time travel and Bigfoot. "Before we go any further, I just want to say that there's serious debate over whether Whitaker's appointment is unconstitutional and might obstruct justice," Colbert said, "but tonight, daddy don't give a damn — I want to talk about time travel and Bigfoot man."

This all had to do with the patent marketing company Whitaker worked for (before the FTC shut it down for scamming investors out of $26 million), and Colbert appeared more than happy to run through the details — which, to be fair, are pretty incredible — and tie it all together.

Seth Meyers had some fake facts about Whitaker at Late Night — and they still somehow look tame compared to reality.

Colbert briefly reprised his "Squatch'd" gag during his rundown of Trump's bizarre list of Medal of Freedom recipients, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

3:29a.m.

On the morning after the 2018 midterms, President Trump took a few minutes to dance on the political graves of several Republicans who declined to embrace him during the campaign. Among them was Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah). "Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost," Trump said. A week later, it looks like Love has a good shot at winning. On Wednesday evening, Salt Lake and Juab counties released a new dump of 12,000 ballots in Utah's 4th Congressional District race, and Love's deficit to Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) shrank to 873 votes.

"With the heavily Republican Utah County expected to update its count on Friday, McAdams precarious lead of 0.36 percentage points is likely to change, and could potentially erode away entirely," The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Dave Wasserman at the Cook Political Report agrees:

Both campaigns expressed cautious optimism. "Since Election Day, Mia has consistently improved her margin and is on a steady path to victory," Love campaign manager Dave Hansen said. McAdams' campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, said the vote count has had "ups and downs," but "we feel good about the mayor’s lead and remain optimistic about the remaining votes." Love has filed a lawsuit to halt the counting of ballots in Salt Lake County until her campaign can challenge signatures on provision and mail-in ballots. Peter Weber

2:59a.m.

President Trump has been in a sour mood for days, CNN reported Wednesday evening, confirming a slate of reports about Trump brooding and lashing out at staffers following mounting Democratic gains in last week's midterms, bad press from his trip to France over the weekend, and expected bad news from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Adding to Trump's pique, CNN says, was his feeling that first lady Melania Trump publicly exposing a staffing dispute with a senior national security official made him look like "a bossed-around husband."

"Yes, he's pissed — at damn near everyone," a White House official told CNN. You can hear Jake Tapper read that quote in CNN's report:

But CNN also sheds some light on why Trump's weekend in Paris worsened his already dark mood, including his feeling that his widely panned "decision to scrap a planned visit to an American cemetery in France because of rain" showed "he's being misserved by some of his staffers," notably Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Fuentes, who informed him of the logistical problems with traveling to the cemetery. CNN adds:

As he watched the onslaught of headlines criticizing him for skipping the trip with no backup plan, the president took his anger out on Fuentes personally. Whiling away the empty hours at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris, Trump complained the entire trip to France was poorly conceived and executed, according to people familiar with the matter. He'd long discovered the events on Sunday would not include a grand military parade like the one he witnessed a year ago on Bastille Day, leading him to wonder what the point of the trip was. [CNN]

Trump reportedly spent that afternoon demanding updates on the election results and watching Fox News. You can read more about Trump's itch to fire people, his Election Night party with billionaire friends, and his Paris blues at CNN. Peter Weber

2:08a.m.

This was not your average field trip.

Instead of visiting a museum or watching a performance, about 100 students from Seattle's Garfield High School on Tuesday traveled to the Elliott Bay Book Co. Each teenager had a $50 gift card, their money maximized thanks to a 20 percent store discount. They had to follow just one instruction: buy whatever books they wanted.

English teacher Adam Gish believes in the power of reading, telling The Seattle Times it "can humanize us and help us, especially at this age, discover our identities because we discover that other people go through the same thing." While in the classroom several years ago, Gish discovered that many of his students had never been inside a bookstore before. As a special reward, he would take a few every year to Elliot Bay Book Co. and let them choose a book, but it was too expensive for him to take all of his students.

Now, thanks to a private donor, Gish can bring dozens of ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders to the bookstore. Students have to apply by writing a letter, and some shared that their families can't afford books, while others said reading has helped them expand their minds. "A new book is a novelty, a hardcover novel almost unheard of ... it seems surreal and I would be honored to participate in this," one student wrote. This year, Gish let all of the students who wrote letters go on the field trip, where they picked up books like Becoming by Michelle Obama and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. After everyone checked out at the register, about 450 books were bought. Catherine Garcia

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