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October 22, 2018

In either late 2017 or early 2018, murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi met with Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States and younger brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, while at Saudi Arabia's embassy in Washington, several people with knowledge of the meeting told NBC News on Monday.

Khashoggi was at the embassy to take care of a routine matter, and after he was recognized by officials, they called the ambassador's office, and he was invited up to meet with him, two friends of Khashoggi's said. It was a friendly meeting, he told them, which lasted about 30 minutes. The embassy confirmed the meeting happened, but it's not clear what they discussed.

Saudi Arabia had been pushing for Khashoggi to return; the journalist was critical of some of the government's decisions, and had left to live in the United States. Khashoggi's friends said he had not only been contacted by Prince Khalid but also one of the crown prince's top aides, Saud al-Qahtani, about a high-ranking job in the royal court, but Khashoggi was wary of the overtures, afraid he was being tricked and would be punished upon his return to Saudi Arabia. Four people with knowledge of how Saudi intelligence operates told NBC News that for years, the plan has been to negotiate with dissidents in an attempt to get them back to the kingdom.

Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, with Saudi Arabia only admitting he was dead on Friday, after Turkish officials said for weeks he had been murdered within hours of his arrival at the consulate. Saudi Arabia claims he was killed in a fight, and Qahtani has been fired for his role in the "rogue operation." After Khashoggi was reported missing, Prince Khalid went back to Saudi Arabia, and has yet to return to the U.S. Catherine Garcia

7:24 a.m.

In a long-awaited 101-page report released Wednesday morning, an independent United Nations human rights investigator said Saudi Arabia is legally responsible for the "deliberate, premeditated execution" of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khasoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. The investigator, Agnes Callamard, said her investigation, hampered by a lack of cooperation and likely obstruction by the Saudi government, found no "smoking gun" linking Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the "extrajudicial killing," but she found enough "credible evidence" to warrant "further investigation by a proper authority" outside Saudi Arabia.

"Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources, and finances," Callamard wrote. "While the Saudi government claims that these resources were put in place by [then–deputy head of intelligence] Ahmed Asiri, every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the crown prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched."

The CIA has concluded that Salman likely ordered Khashoggi's murder, but President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said the U.S. is still determining responsibility, also arguing that one bad incident isn't sufficient to derail the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

Callamard also gave a detailed, minute-by-minute breakdown of Khashoggi's murder, from two Saudi agents discussing dismembering him before he entered the consulate to get marriage papers to the Saudi ruse that he was being taken to back Saudi Arabia, an aborted text message to his son, his sedation and suffocation with a plastic bag, and his dismemberment with a buzzsaw. His body has never been recovered. Peter Weber

6:21 a.m.

President Trump "officially launched his campaign tonight at a rally in Orlando," Jimmy Kimmel said on Tuesday's Kimmel Live. "Finally, Trump is out rallying again. He was up bright and early, typing and hyping at 7:30 a.m. ... Trump really wanted a big crowd for this. He was pushing it like a coworker with an improv show."

Trump promised big screens and food trucks for people who couldn't get into the arena, Kimmel noted. "He's doing more for the people at his rally in Orlando than he did for all of Puerto Rico after the hurricane. But those are his people, and it was quite the scene in Orlando. The president's Fox friends were on the ground this morning to chat it up with supporters who decided to camp out overnight." He showed that clip, which, presumably, was not clever trolling by Democrats.

"It is crazy that Florida basically gets to decide our election," Kimmel said. "It's like letting your dog decide what's for dinner every night." He ended with a hot take on Trump kicking his chief of staff out of the Oval Office for coughing.

"That's right, Trump launched his 2020 campaign with a huge rally — it was going well until Trump started kicking out every person who coughed," Jimmy Fallon joked at The Tonight Show. "But Trump drew a big crowd, he said thousands were lined up outside the arena two days before the rally. That's kind of a strange thing to brag about. On one hand, thousands of people waited two days to see you, but on the other hand, none of them have jobs."

Late Night's Seth Meyers found the entire premise ridiculous: "You're launching your 2020 re-election campaign? You've been running for re-election since your second day in office. You talk about 2020 more than a guy who just got Lasik." Watch below. Peter Weber

5:26 a.m.

These facts are uncontested: Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife met and befriended a 21-year-old male pool attendant at Miami's tony Fontainebleau hotel in 2012; they invested in a gay-friendly South Beach youth hostel at the recommendation of the pool attendant, Giancarlo Granda, and named him co-manager; they introduced Granda to Donald Trump at Falwell's Liberty University in Virginia in 2012; Falwell endorsed Trump for president in early 2016; and Trump's former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen told comedian Tom Arnold in March that he had intervened to protect the Falwells by trying to bury racy, kinky photos of them in late 2015, in a dispute involving the "pool boy" and the hostel.

Any strings tying those events together are speculative and disputed, as is their relationship to the 2016 presidential race, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Falwell, the son of Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell Sr., isn't an ordained minister, but his unexpected, pivotal endorsement of the thrice-married Trump "became a permission slip for deeply religious conservatives who were attracted by Mr. Trump's promises to make America great again but wary of his well-known history of infidelity" and other typical deal-breakers, the Times says. Trump's subsequent and enduring strength among white evangelicals helped propel him to the Republican nomination and the White House.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had been counting on strong evangelical support, and in mid-January 2016, Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, told the Cruz campaign that Falwell had committed to endorsing Cruz, two people involved in the campaign told the Times. When a top Cruz adviser called to speed up the endorsement, Falwell said he couldn't endorse anyone, blaming Liberty's board, then a few days later, he endorsed Trump, the Times reports.

The Falwells have denied that there are any compromising or embarrassing photos of them and say they were unaware Cohen had allegedly intervened on their behalf. Cohen, in jail, has not commented on the allegations Arnold covertly recorded him sharing. Read more about the bizarre story at The New York Times. Peter Weber

4:20 a.m.

"By now it's well established that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and they're not done interfering," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. According to the FBI, Russia is already meddling in the 2016 race, so "keep an eye out for any suspicious online accounts — like anyone who says they're voting for Bill de Blasio," he joked. "But this week, we learned that the Pentagon is fighting back against the Russians," hacking into the country's power grid, according to The New York Times.

And also, according to the Times, nobody told Trump about the operation, and for "the reason you fear," Colbert said. "The military thinks they can't share intelligence with the commander in chief because he'll either stop the program entirely to protect Russia or go blabbing about it." He imagined the conversation with Vladimir Putin, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

2:50 a.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric reached a settlement with 14 local California governments on Tuesday to pay $1 billion in damages for a series of wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes. PG&E, which declared bankruptcy in January in anticipation of tens of billions in wildfire-related damages, said Tuesday's settlement is "an important first step toward an orderly, fair, and expeditious resolution of wildfire claims." Baron & Budd, the Texas law firm representing the 14 California communities, said the settlement will cover "taxpayer losses."

"This money will help local government and taxpayers rebuild their communities after several years of devastating wildfires," Baron & Budd said in a statement. "The cities and counties will be in a better position to help their citizens rebuild and move forward." The town of Paradise, mostly destroyed in 2018's Camp Fire, will get $270 million, and other money will cover damages from a 2015 fire in Butte County and 2017 fires in Northern California wine country. PG&E's downed power lines have been linked to several wildfires in the state. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

Trash doesn't stand a chance near Florida's Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier.

For 15 years, scuba divers have been meeting at the beach for an annual cleanup event, donning their masks and picking up trash from the ocean floor. Organizers decided it was time to break the Guinness World Record for the largest underwater cleanup, and 633 divers came out on Saturday to participate.

Guinness' Michael Empric counted as each diver entered the water, and for their time to count, they had to stay submerged for at least 15 minutes. Divers of all ages took part in the cleanup, with some coming from other states. They picked up signs, bottles, fishing weights, and other pieces of trash, and cheered when Empric let them know they shattered the previous record, set in Egypt in 2015. "Obviously, trash was collected, but the beauty of it is with 633 divers, we were able to do a very thorough cleaning," diver and environmentalist R.J. Harper told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "I have 600 new friends just as a result of this." Catherine Garcia

1:20 a.m.

President Trump held a big re-election rally in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday night, and for those Trump super fans unable to get into the venue, The Late Show explained the consolation prize:

Trump's "supporters started lining up nearly two full days before the event — apparently he hasn't brought all of America's jobs back, considering this is a Tuesday," Stephen Colbert said in his monologue. Trump tweeted about the pre-rally enthusiasm, with only a touch of vainglory. "He sees himself as a rock star!" Colbert said, combing his Trump voice with a Billy Idol classic: "You know, 'It's a nice day for a white rally.'" The actual band that played to warm up Trump's "45 Fest" crowd was called The Guzzlers, and Colbert gave them a bit of free publicity.

"Trump's rally tonight has added urgency because everyone's talking about how bad his poll numbers are — even Fox News' Bret Baier," Colbert said. "Ouch. Fox News, you pledged to be there for him for better or worse. You keep this up, he's going to leave you for a younger network. ... And Trump was watching Bret," tweeting that "polls are always bad for me," "More Fake News @BretBaier," and there's "something weird going on at Fox." Colbert agreed: "Something weird going on at Fox. They've started reporting — and I hope I'm pronouncing this right — the truth?"

At The Daily Show, Trevor Noah offered some thoughtful advice to Democrats hoping to be the target of the kind of insults Trump hurled during his actual Orlando rally: Don't try to roast Trump, because that's his game and he excels at it; focus on policy, because nothing intrigues swing voters more and deflates Trump quicker. Watch below. Peter Weber

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