September 14, 2018

President Trump is not dealing well with the latest rounds of criticism about his intelligence and competence from Bob Woodward's new instant best-seller, Fear, and an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times, Gabriel Sherman reports in Vanity Fair. "The president has had it," a former West Wing official told the magazine. "When books like this come out, he tends to shut down and calls up people he sees on TV saying good things about him." Donald Trump Jr. is reportedly telling people he's concerned that his father isn't sleeping because his of obsession with the anonymous op-ed writer and nagging suspicion it could be almost anyone.

"Besides family, one of the only people Trump continues to trust is Stephen Miller," his senior policy adviser, Sherman writes, quoting a Republican close to the White House as explaining: "The op-ed has validated Miller's view, which was also Steve Bannon's, that there's an 'administrative state' out to get Trump." Bannon apparently believes this amounts to a coup, and Trump agrees, a person familiar with Trump's thinking told Sherman: "Trump believes there's a coup."

Miller has definitely proven himself to be a political survivor, Ed Kilgore says at New York. "But it is more than a little scary to think of one of the most powerful people on Earth placing so much of his trust in a young man who cut his teeth in politics as a professional right-wing troll before beginning his official career with the hyperextremist Michele Bachmann," the former congresswoman and GOP presidential candidate. Peter Weber

2:33 p.m.

Apple is recalling certain MacBook Pro units after saying that their battery "may overheat and pose a fire safety risk."

The company on Thursday announced a voluntary recall of some 15-inch MacBook Pro units sold "primarily" between September 2015 and February 2017, asking customers to stop using them and get a free battery replacement.

"Customer safety is always Apple's top priority, and we have voluntarily decided to replace affected batteries, free of charge," Apple said.

Apple described the recall as affecting a "limited number of older generation" laptops.

Users can visit this page on the Apple website and enter their MacBook's serial number to find out whether this recall applies to them. If it does, Apple says battery replacement service may take one to two weeks. This announcement comes, Fox News points out, after Apple in April previously recalled some AC wall plug adapters and Apple World Travel Adapter Kits after saying they "could break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched." Brendan Morrow

2:29 p.m.

Britain's race for prime minister is officially set.

Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson will face off in a runoff vote to decide the next British prime minister, a Tory leadership vote decided Thursday. Johnson, the heavy favorite to win the race, got the support of 160 MPs, while Hunt earned 77 votes, per The Associated Press. The winner of the runoff will be announced July 22.

Hunt, the foreign minister, beat his nearest competitor, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, by just two votes on Thursday. Home Secretary Sajid Javid was also edged out of the race in a vote earlier that day. Meanwhile, Johnson secured more than half of his party's support, even after his supporters reportedly "lent votes to the foreign secretary to knock out his bitter rival Gove," The Guardian writes.

Johnson is one of Britain's most recognizable political figures, previously serving as foreign secretary to outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May and as mayor of London. He's so far campaigned on pulling Britain out of the EU by the Oct. 31 deadline with or without a trade deal. May has so far been unable to deliver Brexit, requesting extensions on withdrawal deadlines and even offering up her own resignation if Parliament would agree to the deal she drew up. But even that didn't work, so May has committed to stepping down as prime minister as soon as her party chooses a new leader. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:33 p.m.

President Trump on Thursday morning said that Iran made a mistake in shooting down a U.S. drone — and he suggested later in the day that he's speaking literally.

After reports that Iran's paramilitary Islamic Republican Guard Corps had shot down a U.S. drone, Trump on Thursday tweeted simply, "Iran made a very big mistake!" He later spoke to reporters in the Oval Office and said that he has "a feeling that it was a mistake made by somebody who shouldn't have been doing what they did." He also said that "I may be wrong and I may be right, but I'm right a lot."

Asked to clarify if he's suggesting the drone was not shot down intentionally, Trump said he finds it "hard to believe it was intentional," again speculating that it "could have been somebody who was loose and stupid who did it."

Iran had previously said that the U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk violated its airspace as the U.S. called this an "an unprovoked attack," The Associated Press reports.

This drone being brought down came amid escalating tensions with Iran, and when asked Thursday whether members of his administration are pushing for a conflict, Trump denied this, saying that "in many cases, it's the opposite." Asked how the U.S. will respond, Trump said, "you'll find out." Brendan Morrow

1:13 p.m.

A bipartisan swath of senators on Thursday voted to block President Trump's emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

In the first of three resolutions, all Democrats and seven Republicans joined for a 53-45 vote to express their disapproval of Trump's planned arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The remaining two resolutions are expected to pass as well, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) leading the charge, The Washington Post reports.

Last month, Trump announced he'd use his emergency powers to let American companies sell $8.1 billion worth of munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Much of Congress had loudly opposed the arms sales, particularly following Saudi Arabia's alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That prompted Graham to join Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in co-sponsoring 22 separate resolutions blocking the sales, though they later condensed the number to three in a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), per The New York Times. The deal will also force the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to consider a bill limiting a president's authority on using emergency powers for arms sales.

At least four Senate Republicans, including Graham, are expected to block the remaining two resolutions, the Post says. Still, it's unlikely the resolutions will get the 67 votes they'd need to avoid Trump's inevitable veto. The Democratic-held House is also expected to have no problem passing the bills. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:56 p.m.

U.S. gamers are getting their Hogwarts letters of acceptance a bit earlier than expected.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the free Pokémon Go style mobile Harry Potter game from Niantic, is now available for download in the U.S. Niantic had previously announced the game would launch on June 21st, making its availability on Thursday a nice surprise for American players. The Verge notes that mobile games of this kind typically launch across the world gradually over the course of several days.

Like Pokémon Go, Wizards Unite is an augmented reality game, meaning it overlays the game's elements onto the real world. Just as players use their phone's camera for Pokémon battles in Pokémon Go, Wizards Unite utilizes a player's camera as they cast spells. The game also has players hunt for items and encounter magical creatures, and it makes use of real world locations similar to the way Pokemon Go does, Polygon notes.

Niantic, which worked with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the game, held an open beta for Wizards Unite in Australia and New Zealand, and it received more than 100,000 downloads, VentureBeat reports. Although Pokémon Go's 2016 launch was infamously bumpy, Gamespot writes that "what's evident about Wizards Unite, though, is how much Niantic has learned from its early struggles with the game's predecessor."

After Wizards Unite, plenty of more games of this ilk are coming, with a Pokémon Go style version of Minecraft also on the way from Microsoft. Polygon last month described this game, Microsoft Earth, as "a lot like Pokémon Go, except deeper, richer, more ambitious and more technically advanced." A closed beta for Microsoft Earth will take place this summer. Brendan Morrow

10:09 a.m.

Nearly 30 years after his death, a never-before-seen Freddie Mercury performance has just been released online.

Mercury sings "Time Waits For No One" in pristine video footage released on Thursday, with the performance having originally been recorded for a concept album produced for the musical Time in 1986, according to a statement on the Mercury website.

Although a version of the song was released at the time, this new one, which Mercury's longtime friend, Dave Clark, worked to bring to life after finding it "buried deep in the vaults," includes just Mercury's vocals with a new piano track added, the statement explains. Variety writes that the edition of the song released on Thursday is a "dramatically different version from the heavily produced, officially released one."

Along with the performance, behind-the-scenes footage was also released on Thursday of Mercury and Clark discussing working together. Both the video of the performance, and the behind-the-scenes footage, can be watched on YouTube. Brendan Morrow

9:10 a.m.

As former Vice President Joe Biden defends his comments about working with segregationist senators, some within his campaign are leaking their disapproval to the media.

Biden has been taking fire after touting at a Tuesday event his past ability to work with segregationist senators with whom he disagreed like James Eastland and Herman Talmadge, nostalgically recalling a time when "at least there was some civility" and when "we got things done." This drew criticism from some of Biden's Democratic opponents including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who called on him to apologize. But Biden has defended himself, pushing back and saying Booker is the one who should apologize.

Politico reports that Biden had been advised against talking about segregationists in this way, though, with one source saying it's been "a point of contention" but "there's only so much we can do. This is his decision."

Similarly, The Washington Post reports that some within Biden's campaign "warned him against mentioning" in public his relationship with Eastland, with aides saying "they had urged Biden to find a less toxic example" and one adviser telling the Post, "it might move him to pick a different senator." This source added, "he's not someone you can go to and just say, ‘You’ve been doing this x number of years and you can’t do this anymore.'"

A source close to Biden also told CNN, "He needs to use a new, less problematic example."

Pundits on Thursday took note of these surprising leaks coming out of the Biden campaign, with Axios' Jonathan Swan writing that it's "early in the season for negative leaks," while The New York Times' Maggie Haberman observed, "this feels like spring 2016-level Trump campaign leaks." Brendan Morrow

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