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Pennsylvania GOP Candidate Threatens to ‘Stomp’ Rival’s Face

The Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania threatened to stomp on the face of his Democratic opponent in a social media video Friday and then walked back his comments, saying he made a mistake in his choice of words.

Republican Scott Wagner is trailing well behind incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf in the polls ahead of the Nov. 6 election, and the video posted on Wagner’s campaign Facebook page was part of an acrimonious battle in one of the most populous U.S. states.

“Governor Wolf, let me tell you what, between now and Nov. 6, you’d better put a catcher’s mask on your face because I’m going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes,” Wolf said in the video.

A few hours later, the video was taken down. Wagner explained: “I may have chosen a poor metaphor. I shouldn’t have said what I said.”

On his Facebook page, Wolf encouraged people to share the original video if they agreed that “Scott Wagner should not be the governor of Pennsylvania.”

The video with Wagner’s threat set off a social media storm and attracted the attention of a few prominent Republicans, including Steve Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“These comments are totally unacceptable. As I’ve said many times before, there is absolutely no place in our politics for this kind of rhetoric, said Scalise, who battled for his life after he was shot by a gunman who opened fire on Republican lawmakers during baseball practice in 2017.

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Trump Vows to Unearth Truth About Khashoggi Disappearance

President Donald Trump declared Friday the U.S. will uncover the truth about what happened to journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, whose possible murder at Saudi hands after disappearing in Istanbul has captured worldwide attention. Trump promised to personally call Saudi Arabia’s King Salman soon about “the terrible situation in Turkey.”

“We’re going to find out what happened,” Trump pledged when questioned by reporters in Cincinnati where he was headlining a political rally.

Khashoggi, a forceful critic of the Saudi government, went missing more than a week ago after entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkish officials have said they believe he was murdered there. U.S. officials say they are seeking answers from the Saudi government and are not yet accepting the Turkish government’s conclusions.

The Saudis have called accusations that they are responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance “baseless.” Widely broadcast video shows the 59-year-old writer and Washington Post contributor entering the consulate on Tuesday of last week, but there is none showing him leaving.

Separately, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, the State Department said Friday. No details of the conversation were released. 

In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Cengiz said Khashoggi was not nervous when he entered the Saudi consulate to obtain paperwork required for their marriage.

“He said, ‘See you later my darling,’ and went in,” she told the AP.

Citing anonymous sources, the Post reported Friday that Turkey’s government has told U.S. officials it has audio and video proof that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered. The AP has not been able to confirm that report.

In written responses to questions by the AP, Cengiz said Turkish authorities had not told her about any recordings and Khashoggi was officially “still missing.”

She said investigators were examining his cellphones, which he had left with her.

Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi left the consulate. He hasn’t been seen since, though his fiancee was waiting outside.

Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are important U.S. allies in the region. Trump said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will evaluate whether to attend a Saudi investor conference later this month. 

On Thursday, Trump had said U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia were “excellent” and he was reluctant to scuttle highly lucrative U.S. weapons deals with Riyadh. A number of members of Congress have pressed the Trump administration to impose sanctions on the country in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Turkey on Friday as part of an investigation into the writer’s disappearance. In a statement posted on Twitter, the Saudis welcomed the joint effort and said the kingdom was keen “to sustain the security and safety of its citizenry, wherever they might happen to be.”

Cengiz said she and the journalist would have been married this week and had planned a life together split between Istanbul and the United States, where Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile since last year.

She had appealed for help to Trump, who earlier this week said he would invite her to the White House.

Cengiz didn’t respond to a question about that, but earlier on Friday she urged Trump on Twitter to use his clout to find out what happened.

“What about Jamal Khashoggi?” she wrote in response to a tweet by Trump in which he said he said he had been “working very hard” to free an American evangelical pastor who has been held for two years in Turkey. Andrew Brunson was released late Friday.

Amid growing concern over Khashoggi’s fate, French President Emmanuel Macron said his country wanted to know “the whole truth” about the writer’s disappearance, calling the early details about the case “very worrying.”

Macron said “I’m waiting for the truth and complete clarity to be made” since the matter is “very serious.” He spoke Friday in Yerevan, Armenia, to French broadcasters RFI and France 24.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Berlin was also “very concerned” about the writer’s disappearance and called on Saudi Arabia to “participate fully” in clearing up reports that he had been killed.

Global business leaders began reassessing their ties with Saudi Arabia, stoking pressure on the Gulf kingdom to explain what happened to Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, who was considered close to the Saudi royal family, had become a critic of the current government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old heir apparent who has introduced reforms but has shown little tolerance for criticism.

As a contributor to The Washington Post, Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticism of its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.

Those policies are all seen as initiatives of the crown prince, who has also presided over a roundup of activists and businessmen.

 

 

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Trump Vows to Unearth Truth About Khashoggi Disappearance

President Donald Trump declared Friday the U.S. will uncover the truth about what happened to journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, whose possible murder at Saudi hands after disappearing in Istanbul has captured worldwide attention. Trump promised to personally call Saudi Arabia’s King Salman soon about “the terrible situation in Turkey.”

“We’re going to find out what happened,” Trump pledged when questioned by reporters in Cincinnati where he was headlining a political rally.

Khashoggi, a forceful critic of the Saudi government, went missing more than a week ago after entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkish officials have said they believe he was murdered there. U.S. officials say they are seeking answers from the Saudi government and are not yet accepting the Turkish government’s conclusions.

The Saudis have called accusations that they are responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance “baseless.” Widely broadcast video shows the 59-year-old writer and Washington Post contributor entering the consulate on Tuesday of last week, but there is none showing him leaving.

Separately, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, the State Department said Friday. No details of the conversation were released. 

In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Cengiz said Khashoggi was not nervous when he entered the Saudi consulate to obtain paperwork required for their marriage.

“He said, ‘See you later my darling,’ and went in,” she told the AP.

Citing anonymous sources, the Post reported Friday that Turkey’s government has told U.S. officials it has audio and video proof that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered. The AP has not been able to confirm that report.

In written responses to questions by the AP, Cengiz said Turkish authorities had not told her about any recordings and Khashoggi was officially “still missing.”

She said investigators were examining his cellphones, which he had left with her.

Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi left the consulate. He hasn’t been seen since, though his fiancee was waiting outside.

Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are important U.S. allies in the region. Trump said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will evaluate whether to attend a Saudi investor conference later this month. 

On Thursday, Trump had said U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia were “excellent” and he was reluctant to scuttle highly lucrative U.S. weapons deals with Riyadh. A number of members of Congress have pressed the Trump administration to impose sanctions on the country in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Turkey on Friday as part of an investigation into the writer’s disappearance. In a statement posted on Twitter, the Saudis welcomed the joint effort and said the kingdom was keen “to sustain the security and safety of its citizenry, wherever they might happen to be.”

Cengiz said she and the journalist would have been married this week and had planned a life together split between Istanbul and the United States, where Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile since last year.

She had appealed for help to Trump, who earlier this week said he would invite her to the White House.

Cengiz didn’t respond to a question about that, but earlier on Friday she urged Trump on Twitter to use his clout to find out what happened.

“What about Jamal Khashoggi?” she wrote in response to a tweet by Trump in which he said he said he had been “working very hard” to free an American evangelical pastor who has been held for two years in Turkey. Andrew Brunson was released late Friday.

Amid growing concern over Khashoggi’s fate, French President Emmanuel Macron said his country wanted to know “the whole truth” about the writer’s disappearance, calling the early details about the case “very worrying.”

Macron said “I’m waiting for the truth and complete clarity to be made” since the matter is “very serious.” He spoke Friday in Yerevan, Armenia, to French broadcasters RFI and France 24.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Berlin was also “very concerned” about the writer’s disappearance and called on Saudi Arabia to “participate fully” in clearing up reports that he had been killed.

Global business leaders began reassessing their ties with Saudi Arabia, stoking pressure on the Gulf kingdom to explain what happened to Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, who was considered close to the Saudi royal family, had become a critic of the current government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old heir apparent who has introduced reforms but has shown little tolerance for criticism.

As a contributor to The Washington Post, Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticism of its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.

Those policies are all seen as initiatives of the crown prince, who has also presided over a roundup of activists and businessmen.

 

 

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Analyst Looks at Democrats’ House, Senate Prospects

If history is any guide, Democrats should make gains in the midterm congressional elections on Nov. 6. The president’s party nearly always loses seats in midterm elections, with the average loss of House seats ranging between 20 and 30. Many analysts expect a Democratic takeover of the House, but the Senate appears to be different story. Kyle Kondik, managing editor of “Crystal Ball,” a political newsletter produced by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, explains why.

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Analyst Looks at Democrats’ House, Senate Prospects

If history is any guide, Democrats should make gains in the midterm congressional elections on Nov. 6. The president’s party nearly always loses seats in midterm elections, with the average loss of House seats ranging between 20 and 30. Many analysts expect a Democratic takeover of the House, but the Senate appears to be different story. Kyle Kondik, managing editor of “Crystal Ball,” a political newsletter produced by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, explains why.

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Plugged In With Greta Van Susteren: Stuart Eizenstat

VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren interviews Stuart Eizenstat, who was an aide to former President Jimmy Carter during his administration and is the author of “President Carter: The White House Years.” Eizenstat, offering an insider’s perspective, says his objective was to give a complete assessment of the mistakes and the failures of the Carter administration (1977-81), but also the successes that he says have not been appreciated.

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Plugged In With Greta Van Susteren: Stuart Eizenstat

VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren interviews Stuart Eizenstat, who was an aide to former President Jimmy Carter during his administration and is the author of “President Carter: The White House Years.” Eizenstat, offering an insider’s perspective, says his objective was to give a complete assessment of the mistakes and the failures of the Carter administration (1977-81), but also the successes that he says have not been appreciated.

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US Security Adviser Bolton Vows Tougher Approach to China

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton has vowed to further intensify the Trump administration’s tough approach to China, saying Beijing’s “behavior needs to be adjusted in the trade area, in the international, military and political areas.”

Speaking in a radio interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show recorded Thursday and aired Friday, Bolton said President Donald Trump believed China had taken advantage of the international order for far too long and not enough Americans had stood up to it.

“Now’s the time to do it” he said.

Bolton said Trump’s tough approach toward China, a country the administration saw as the “major issue this century,” had left Beijing “confused.”

“They’ve never seen an American president this tough before. I think their behavior needs to be adjusted in the trade area, in the international, military and political areas, in a whole range of areas,” he said.

“Perhaps we’ll see at the G-20 meeting in Argentina next month Xi Jinping willing to come to talk turkey on some of these issues,” he added.

Bolton’s remarks came amid a series of administration broadsides against China that goes beyond a trade war. These have included accusing Beijing of trying to undermine Trump ahead of next month’s congressional elections and of taking reckless military actions in the South China Sea.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday that Trump would go through with plans to meet Xi at the G-20 summit if it looked possible to chart “a positive direction.” But he said re-launching trade talks with China would require Beijing to commit to taking action on structural reforms to its economy.

Bolton called recent Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, where a U.S. warship had a near collision with a Chinese vessel last month, “dangerous” and said the United States was determined to keep international sea lanes open.

“This is something the Chinese need to understand,” he said, adding that allies including Britain and Australia were also sailing through the South China Sea to make this point.

“We’re going to do a lot more on that,” he said. “I think we could see more exploitation of mineral resources in the South China Sea with or without Chinese cooperation. They need to know they have not achieved a fait accompli here. This is not a Chinese province and will not be.”

Bolton did not elaborate on his remark about mineral exploitation in the strategic waterway, which China claims almost in its entirety in spite of several rival claimants.

Bolton said China’s violation of international norms in trade and business had allowed it to gain substantial economic and military strength.

“If they’re put back in the proper place they would be if they weren’t allowed to steal our technology, their military capabilities would be substantially reduced. And a lot of the tensions we see caused by China would be reduced,” Bolton said.

He indicated that Washington was prepared to take more action to restrict sensitive high-tech exports to China.

“We did this and continue to do it in terms of dual-use technology that could affect nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or ballistic-missile development,” he said. “I think in cyberspace, we’re entitled to do the same thing. … We want to do it in ways that protect our open economy, but deny others the ability to take advantage of it.”

Bolton said he expected a second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “sometime in the next couple of months,” but said it remained to be seen if the diplomatic effort to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons would be successful.

“The president has held the door open for North Korea,” he said. “They need to denuclearize completely and irreversibly. And if they do that and walk through the door, the future could be very different for the North Korean people.

“The future remains uncertain on the president’s diplomacy. He’s optimistic. He presses hard. He does not have stars in his eyes about this. Neither does Mike Pompeo, neither does Jim Mattis, neither do I,” Bolton said, referring to the U.S. secretaries of defense and state.

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O’Rourke Raises Record $38.1M in Texas Senate Race

In one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate contests this year, Democrat Beto O’Rourke raised a record $38.1 million during the third quarter in a bid to oust Ted Cruz, a prominent Texas Republican who made an unsuccessful run for the White House in 2016. 

O’Rourke announced on Friday his eye-popping financial haul over the last three months. It was more than three times the amount raised by Cruz and set a new quarterly fundraising record in a Senate race.

The funding was the most a Senate candidate has raised in a quarter since Rick Lazio, a onetime Republican member of Congress who hauled in $22 million in the third quarter of 2000 in a failed contest against Hillary Clinton for a Senate seat in New York, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Last week, Cruz said his campaign had raised more than $12 million during the third quarter and predicted, correctly, that his rival’s take for the period would top $30 million. During a rally in Texas where he announced his own fundraising success, Cruz said of O’Rourke: “If you wanna raise money from Hollywood liberals, there ain’t nothing better. But that’s not Texas.”

O’Rourke’s unprecedented fundraising caused a stir on social media, with many commentators noting that it outpaced what high-profile presidential candidates have raised in a quarter in the past. One noted that Republican Jeb Bush’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign had raised $35.5 million in a quarter. Another pointed out that former President Barack Obama had raised $23.5 in the final quarter before the 2008 primary season kicked off.

Progressive push

The contest between O’Rourke, a three-term liberal member of the House of Representatives, and Cruz, a conservative senator, has fired up progressives around the country, drawing in large amounts of small donations from out-of-district and out-of-state donors as Democrats seek to wrest control of Congress.

O’Rourke, who has rejected receiving money from political action committees, said the latest funding came from 800,000 contributors, although he did not say how many were from outside El Paso, which is the heart of the congressional district he represents.

The Center for Responsive Politics said more than $25 million of the funds raised by O’Rourke during the latest quarter came through ActBlue, the Democratic online fundraising juggernaut. ActBlue said earlier this week that it had raised more than $385 million for 9,300 campaigns and organizations during the third quarter.

In a statement released Friday, O’Rourke said, “The people of Texas in all 254 counties are proving that when we reject PACs and come together not as Republicans or Democrats but as Texans and Americans, there’s no stopping us.”

The O’Rourke-Cruz race currently stands as the second most expensive Senate contest, with each candidate raising more than $23 million through the second quarter. The latest quarterly fundraising puts O’Rourke well ahead of his rival. 

The most expensive Senate race is being waged in Florida between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott; more than $50 million had been raised through the second quarter. Congressional candidates must report their third-quarter fundraising and spending to the Federal Election Commission on Monday.

Despite his sizable fundraising advantage,O’Rourke lags behind Cruz in most polls. In a poll conducted on Thursday by The New York Times’ Upshot newsletter and Siena College, Cruz was ahead of O’Rourke 51 percent to 43 percent.

It’s a ‘serious race’

Nevertheless, with O’Rourke emerging as a competitive challenger in Texas, Republicans are “understanding now that this is a serious race beginning to rally to Cruz’s side,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at University of Texas at Austin.

Spending on presidential, congressional and local election campaigns has been steadily rising in the United States in recent years, partly as a result of unlimited spending by outside groups.The Center for Responsive Politics expects this election cycle to set a new fundraising and spending record.

But outraising and outspending your rival doesn’t always ensure victory. In one of the most expensive and closely fought races this election cycle, Democrat Jon Ossoff lost in a special election for a House seat in Georgia last year to Republican Karen Handel despite a $20 million fundraising advantage.

Nevertheless, money does make a difference. 

To be competitive, “you need to be able to both outspend or keep up with your opponent but also have at bay, ready to deploy, a huge amount of money in case a super PAC comes in and makes a huge ad buy in your district,” said Sarah Bryner, research director for the Center for Responsive Politics.

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Candidate Resigns Amid Controversy Over Parkland Comments

A Republican candidate for Connecticut’s General Assembly has withdrawn following criticism over comments he made online about victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Steven Baleshiski, a 22-year-old college student from Southington, had been challenging six-term state Rep. Joe Aresimowicz for a House seat.

The Hartford Courant reports the Republican town committees for Southington and Berlin withdrew their endorsements of Baleshiski before he resigned. The two committees said they do not condone Baleshiski’s “hurtful and dividing behavior.” Committee chairs said they are looking for a new candidate.

In a social media post in March, Baleshiski said a survivor of the Parkland shooting who turned to gun-control advocacy “can burn in hell.”

Baleshiski did not respond to a request for comment from the newspaper.

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