April 16, 2018

On Sunday night, Jon Lerner resigned as Vice President Mike Pence's national security adviser, just three days after Pence appointed him to the job. Lerner, who is the top deputy to U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, did not give a reason in the statement released by Pence's office, but Axios reports that Lerner stepped aside to avoid causing any more distractions in the White House. "The vice president's team has always conducted business without drama and agreed with Jon that we can continue to look upon Jon for advice without causing any distractions," a source familiar with the deliberations told Axios.

Earlier Sunday, Axios' Jonathan Swan reported that President Trump moved to block Lerner from coming on board Friday, furious because Lerner had worked as a pollster and ad maker for Club For Growth when the conservative group was spending millions of dollars to knock Trump out of the Republican primaries. Trump told Chief of Staff to get rid of Lerner on Friday, Axios said, but Pence called Trump after landing in Peru and learning about the kerfuffle, and was able to get Trump to drop his opposition. There was also reportedly concern in the White House that Lerner would have been spread too thin working for both Pence and Haley, and suggestions that he lacked the proper background in national security and foreign policy. Peter Weber


Whether journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a gruesome assassination or, as Saudi Arabia has claimed to much skepticism, a brutal fist fight gone wrong, it may seem obvious he — and not, say, President Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and other enthusiasts of the U.S.-Saudi alliance — is the victim here.

Rubio suggested otherwise in a Monday morning tweet:

The Florida senator did concede Khashoggi's violent death and dismemberment was "immoral" in its own right. But by word count, anyway, the great bulk of his concern was for himself, Trump, and others now suffering political opposition over their affection for a dictatorial monarchy. Bonnie Kristian


You probably haven't heard about one of the worst American oil spills ever. That's because the company responsible has reportedly kept the ongoing spill secret for years, and has no apparent plans to stop it.

After a mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan sunk one of Taylor Energy's oil platforms in 2004, anywhere from 300 to 700 barrels of oil have poured into the Gulf of Mexico every day, The Washington Post reported Sunday. Millions of gallons and 14 years later, and the leak looks like it'll surpass BP's Deepwater Horizon spill to become the largest in American history.

This ongoing spill likely would have flown under the radar if it weren't for Deepwater Horizon — the 2010 environmental disaster that happened just a few miles from this one. Taylor Energy reportedly hid the spill for six years until a watchdog group investigating BP's spill found it. And even after a Justice Department analysis revealed the spill was bigger than initial Coast Guard estimates, Taylor Energy has maintained that there is "no evidence to prove any of the wells are leaking," the Post writes.

Taylor Energy's leak makes up just a slice of the 330,000 gallons that gush into Louisiana's waters every year, according to the state's oil spill coordinator's office. Yet even as Gulf leaks continue, the Trump administration has approved further offshore drilling with little federal regulation, the Post says. Many of the proposed rigs are in the Atlantic, where hurricanes are far more frequent, especially as climate change warms ocean waters.

Taylor Energy has declined to comment on the apparent spill, which you can read about more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk


President Trump is taking his wild claims about the Central American migrant caravan to the next level.

The president on Monday morning claimed, without citing any evidence, that "unknown Middle Easterners" are "mixed in" with the caravan of migrants currently making its way toward the United States. These migrants are from Central America, primarily Honduras, and many are coming to the U.S. in hopes of escaping violence and poverty in their home countries, CBS reports.

The president had previously been claiming, again without citing evidence, that the caravan is full of "hardened criminals" and that "these aren't little angels coming into our country," reports BuzzFeed News. When a reporter asked Trump what evidence he had to support this statement, he responded, "Oh, please. Please. Don't be a baby."

As is often the case, Trump's source this morning may very well be Fox & Friends. Media Matters' Matthew Gertz pointed out that during a Monday discussion of the migrant caravan on Trump's favorite morning show, a guest speculated that ISIS terrorists could be infiltrating the caravan, offering no proof other than the fact that the president of Guatemala recently said that 100 suspected terrorists had been apprehended by his administration. This original report, however, had nothing to do with the caravan at all. Brendan Morrow


Berlin announced Monday that Germany will not make any additional arms sales agreements with Saudi Arabia in response to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"The government is in agreement that we will not approve further arms exports for the moment because we want to know what happened," said Economy Minister Peter Altmaier. Germany may also renege on past weapons deals still in progress, he said, indicating a decision would be announced "very soon." Berlin previously approved arms sales valued around $462 million to Saudi Arabia in 2018.

Altmaier urged the rest of the European Union to follow suit. "For me it would be important that we come to a joint European stance," he said, "because only if all European countries are in agreement, it will make an impression on the government in Riyadh. It will not have any positive consequences if we halt arms exports but other countries at the same time fill the gap."

President Trump has insisted the United States will not stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, relying on an argument about U.S. jobs that has been found seriously wanting. Bonnie Kristian


Every session of Congress since 2012, a group of bipartisan legislators has introduced a bill to update the short 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which currently states that a company has to accommodate pregnant women if it is already doing so for other employees who are "similar in their ability or inability to work." What that means in practice, Rep. Jarrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) tells The New York Times, is that if companies "treat their nonpregnant employees terribly, they have every right to treat their pregnant employees terribly as well."

A promising 2015 effort to update the act to mirror the Americans With Disabilities Act stalled after Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) balked and introduced a weaker alternative measure, the Times reports, noting that XPO Logistics has several warehouses in Memphis, in Alexander's home state. The bulk of the Times article recounts miscarriages at an XPO warehouse that serves Verizon. The women say they asked for less strenuous work when they got pregnant, brought in doctors' notes, and had their requests denied by supervisors. One of the miscarriages was this year, while the three others happened in 2014, before XPO acquired the previous warehouse operator.

One woman also died of a heart attack a year ago in the windowless warehouse, the Times reports, and "managers told workers to keep moving boxes as her body lay on the floor." Verizon said it is "deeply troubled but these allegations" at the XPO warehouse, while XPO said the allegations either "predate XPO's acquisition," were not reported to management, or were lies spread by Teamsters working to unionize the warehouse.

"Warehouses are among the fastest growing workplaces in the country, employing more than a million Americans," the Times says. You can read some of the heartbreaking stories of loss by women who miscarried after long shifts lifting heavy loads, were asked to get abortions, or were demoted after their miscarriage, at The New York Times. Peter Weber


President Trump has repeatedly said the upcoming midterm elections are about him. But it seems that rule only applies if Republicans stack up a bunch of wins.

In private, Trump has reportedly been saying that the midterms are not a referendum on him at all, Politico reports. Though Trump is optimistic about a "red wave," Politico reports that in the case of Republican losses, he thinks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would be to blame. The president has reportedly been saying that "if they screw it up, it's not my fault." Never mind that he recently told supporters that "this [election] is also a referendum about me," per The Washington Post.

One aide told Politico that Trump would likely blame an unfavorable outcome partially on Ryan for sticking around as a lame duck speaker of the House. Another source said Trump would chalk losses up to the fact that candidates didn't adhere closely enough to his message, and so his own supporters didn't turn out.

Either way, it seems Trump has his fall guys picked out if things don't go as planned for the GOP next month. Brendan Morrow


Michael Myers finally came home this weekend, and it looks like he's here to stay.

Halloween, the new revival of the iconic horror franchise which sees Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) returning to face down Michael Myers 40 years after the events of the original classic, opened to a massive $77.5 million this weekend, per Box Office Mojo. This is the second-best debut for a horror film of all time behind only 2017's It, which made $123 million in its opening weekend. It's also by far the best opening ever for the long-running slasher series; the franchise's previous best was with Rob Zombie's 2007 remake, which made $26 million in its opening weekend, or the equivalent of $31 million today.

Halloween came just a few million dollars short of besting Venom's two-week-old record for best October opening, but it didn't quite reach the $80.3 million necessary to do so. Still, Blumhouse will clearly be thrilled with the performance of Halloween, as this is the horror studio's best opening weekend yet, besting the $52 million it made with the debut of Paranormal Activity 3 in 2011. Halloween reportedly only cost $10 million, meaning it brought in nearly eight times its budget just in the first few days of release.

Clearly this means the franchise will continue, and producer Jason Blum had confirmed the studio hoped to make a sequel assuming Halloween performed well, Entertainment Weekly reported. The new film's co-writer, Danny McBride, has also said he has ideas for where the story can go next. Based on how quickly Blumhouse has produced follow-ups in the past, don't be surprised to see the franchise's killing spree continue as soon as next Halloween. Brendan Morrow

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