The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has caused international controversy.
- Trump vowed "severe punishment" on Saudi Arabia if it's shown the royals had something to do with the vanishing and possible murder of Khashoggi.
- Saudi Arabia faces mounting pressure from Western nations and businesses to explain why the journalist was never seen again after he stepped into the Saudi embassy in Turkey on October 2.
- It's unclear how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will handle the meeting with Saudis without hard evidence linking officials to the case.
President Donald Trump said he's sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudi King Salman to discuss the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkish officials and others have alleged that Khashoggi, who sometimes criticized his government in columns for the Washington Post, was killed after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2.
"Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened "to our Saudi Arabian citizen." He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer. I am immediately sending our Secretary of State to meet with King!"
YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images
An official looks from inside the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, on October 12, 2018. - A Saudi delegation has arrived in Turkey for talks on missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, officials said on October 12, with Riyadh and Ankara sharply at odds over how he disappeared last week from the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.
The Saudi government, which is effectively ruled by the king's son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been facing mounting pressure from Western nations—the U.S., Germany, France and the U.K—to answer for the strange disappearance.
"As the President has conveyed, the United States is concerned by his disappearance," Pompeo said in a statement last week. "State Department senior officials have spoken with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through diplomatic channels about this matter...We call on the government of Saudi Arabia to support a thorough investigation of Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation."
On Friday, a Saudi official announced the opening of an internal investigation into the case. But Turkish officials have accused the Saudi government of failing to cooperate with ongoing investigations, which include attempts to search the house of the consul general.
"We wanted to come in with all the chemicals and equipment investigators use to inspect crime scenes," a Turkish official said. "The Saudis said we could only get a brief tour."
Turkish officials, speaking anonymously, also claimed to have evidence showing Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a team of 15 operatives dispatched from the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 15: Flag of Saudi Arabia is seen at Saudi consulate as the waiting continues on the disappearance of Prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, Turkey on October 15, 2018. Khashoggi, a journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, has been missing since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Meanwhile, the Saudi economy has been taking blows. Facing the possibility of retaliatory U.S. sanctions, many Saudi stocks have plunged over the past two weeks, and some international businesses are placing deals on hold. Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Galactic, had hoped to collaborate with the Saudi government to boost tourism in the region, and to accept a $1 billion investment into space tourism ventures, but said on Thursday that he might need to cancel those deals if the government had a hand in Khashoggi's death.
"What has reportedly happened in Turkey ... if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government," Branson said in a statement.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been accused by multiple sources of using violence to silence critics and dissidents. Khaled bin Farhan al-Saud, a Saudi prince living in exile in Germany, told The Independent that several Saudi officials have disappeared in recent weeks after speaking out about the Khashoggi case.
"Over 30 times the Saudi authorities have told me to meet them in the Saudi embassy but I have refused every time. I know what can happen if I go into the embassy," he said, adding, "Around 10 days before Jamal went missing they asked my family to bring me to Cairo to give me a cheque. I refused."
In an interview with CBS' 60 Minutes on Sunday, Trump promised "severe punishment" if it's shown the Saudi royals played a part in Khashoggi's disappearance.
"There's something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that was the case, so we're going to have to see," Trump said. "We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment."
He also suggested on Monday that perhaps "rogue killers" could have been responsible for the journalist's disappearance, but added "who knows." Without hard evidence showing the Saudis killed Khashoggi, or evidence proving the journalist is even dead, it's unclear how Pompeo will handle the meeting with the royals.
West delivered an impassioned speech on American industry and transport, even pitching a high-tech plane to Apple.
- West met with the President to discuss urban revitalization, stop-and-frisk policies, and crime in Chicago, among other topics.
- West praised Trump for his work in office so far, and pleaded for the rest of the country to support its leader.
- West's support of Trump has long been a source of controversy among his fans and fellow artists.
Kanye West met with President Donald Trump on Thursday for a meeting meant to cover topics surrounding urban revitalization, but West ended up delivering a freestyle rant on everything from North Korea to Superman.
Sporting his red 'Make America Great Again' hat and joined by reporters, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, West delivered an impassioned and disjointed soliloquy on topics including North Korea, ending stop-and-frisk policies, prison reform, keeping jobs in the U.S., and how wearing a MAGA hat made the rapper feel "like superman."
A wild meeting in the Oval OfficeUS-PEOPLE-politics-RACE-TRUMP-KANYEUS President Donald Trump meets with rapper Kanye West in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, October 11, 2018. (Photo by SEBASTIAN SMITH / AFP) (Photo credit should read SEBASTIAN SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
"There was something about putting this hat on that made me feel like Superman," said West, who recently made headlines for delivering a similarly excited speech during a segment of Saturday Night Live that ultimately wasn't aired. "You made a Superman - that's my favorite superhero - you made a Superman cape for me."
The White House said West's meeting with the president, which also included a luncheon, was focused on topics like urban revitalization, workforce training, African-American unemployment and crime in Chicago. During the press briefing, West denied rumors that he's considering a 2020 presidential run, suggesting he'd only consider it after Trump's tenure.
"Let's stop worrying about the future, all we have is today," West said. "Trump is on his hero's journey right now. He might not have thought he'd have a crazy mother-f***r like me (supporting him)."
West has long drawn criticism from his fans and fellow artists for supporting Trump, an admiration that seems to stem partly from Trump's communication style, as West told a concert crowd in 2016:
"There's nonpolitical methods to speaking that I like, that I feel were very futuristic. And that style, and that method of communication, has proven that it can beat a politically correct way of communication."
In May, West caused some outrage when suggested "400 years" of African American slavery seemed like "a choice." He later apologized. Meanwhile, Trump has remained grateful for West's support.
"He can speak for me any time he wants, he's a smart cookie," said Trump, who seemed at times speechless between West's stream-of-consciousness remarks. "He gets it."
Haley, who's at times been both a supporter and critic of the president, reportedly "shocked" White House officials by announcing the end of her two-year tenure as a U.N. ambassador.
- Nikki Haley has resigned as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
- Haley didn't offer a clear reason why she's stepping down, but said "it's time."
- The resignation reportedly came as a surprise to many White House officials, though Trump said she first floated the idea of stepping down about six months ago.
Nikki Haley has resigned from her position as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and plans to leave the administration by the end of 2018.
In an Oval Office press briefing, President Donald Trump accepted Haley's resignation and praised her two-year tenure.
"She's done a fantastic job and we've done a fantastic job together. We've solved a lot of problems and we're in the process of solving a lot of problems," Trump said.
Haley said it's been an honor "to serve the country I love so much," and that the Trump administration's stances on foreign policy have helped the U.S. become respected in the international community.
Trump said Haley teased the idea of resigning six months ago.
"She told me probably six months ago, 'You know maybe at end of the year -- at the end of the two year period -- but by the end of the year I want to take a little time off, I want to take a break.'"
However, multiple sources reported that White House staffers and senior officials were "shocked" by the announcement. Haley, who's at times clashed with administration officials, didn't offer a clear reason for her resignation.
"There's no personal reason," she said. "It's very important for government officials to understand when it's time to step aside...I want to make sure this administration, this president, has the strongest person to fight."
Trump said he hopes Haley will return to the administration in some capacity, and that she could have her "pick" of administration posts.
(Read Haley's full resignation letter here.)
Why did Haley resign?
Without any explicit explanation, there's only speculation about why the U.N. ambassador chose to announce her resignation just weeks ahead of the midterm elections.
The South Carolina swap
One possibility is that Haley plans to take the Senate seat of Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the state for which Haley spent six years as governor, should he replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general, though Graham said he has no interest in pursuing the position. To gain the Senate seat, Haley would need the approval of South Carolina's governor, Republican Henry McMaster, according to Senate vacancy rules.
Clashes with the Trump administration
Others note that Haley has had a strained relationship with White House officials like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. CNN wrote that "Haley was outwardly very tough within the UN (and the Trump administration), she was reportedly a voice urging more moderation -- and toeing the preferred line of establishment Republicans -- in private."
Haley has also clashed with Trump himself, perhaps most visibly in April when she announced U.S. sanctions on Russia. Larry Kudlow, the Trump administration's top economic adviser, later told media there were no sanctions and that Haley was confused. Haley shot back on live TV that she doesn't "get confused."
More recently, Haley penned an opinion piece responding to an anonymous op-ed published by the New York Times in September that outlined a secret resistance inside the White House. Haley wrote:
"...I don't agree with the president on everything. When there is disagreement, there is a right way and a wrong way to address it. I pick up the phone and call him or meet with him in person."
The treatment of sexual assault allegations has likely been one area of disagreement between Haley and the president.
"They should be heard, and they should be dealt with," Haley told CBS in December. "And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.
2020 presidential run
Some have speculated that Haley could be plotting a 2020 presidential bid, though she's denied that and said she plans to campaign for Trump. Still, if Haley does indeed believe that the special counsel investigation could ruin the current administration, she'd be in a unique position to run for office, as Jennifer Rubin noted in an opinion piece for the Washington Post:
"She will then be in a position to pick up the pieces, a unifying figure not objectionable to Trump cultists or to the flock of Republicans who when things go downhill will claim they opposed Trump all along. She will be untainted and arguably the most highly credentialed challenger to Trump still within the GOP fold in 2020."
It's also worth noting that the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal nonprofit watchdog group in Washington, issued a report to the State Department on Monday night asking for officials to investigate how Haley and her husband had accepted free flights from businessmen in 2017, which could constitute violations of executive branch rules on accepting gifts.
Taking a break
Despite rumors of a presidential run, it's also plausible that Haley, who's served in high-level government positions for more than a decade, simply wants to take a break from politics, possibly with the intent to rest or make more money.
"It's been eight years of intense time, and I'm a believer in term limits," Haley told reporters on Tuesday. "I think you have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else to do the job."
Haley is close with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner
Haley praised Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner in the Oval Office briefing on Tuesday.
"Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands," Ms. Haley said. "And Ivanka has been just a great friend, and they do a lot of things behind the scenes that I wish more people knew about, because we're a better country because they're in this administration."
Some have speculated that Trump could pick his daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump to fill the role, noting Haley's positive comments and the fact that Ivanka's Twitter account recently began following many government accounts on Monday.
According to @Trumpsalert, @IvankaTrump started following a lot of Defense Department accounts yesterday pic.twitter.com/J3ZtngjloG
— Dave Brown (@dave_brown24) October 9, 2018
The New York Times noted some other possible successors, including "Dina Powell, a former deputy national security adviser to the president, and Richard A. Grenell. Mr. Grenell, the American ambassador to Germany, served as spokesman for John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, when he was ambassador to the United Nation under former President George W. Bush."
The White House quoted the president as telling ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega that she's "never thanking."
- President Donald Trump made an insulting comment to ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega yesterday.
- The White House transcript of the exchange was incorrect, though it's unclear whether the error was made mistakenly or deliberately.
- The White House later issued a corrected transcript.
In an official transcript of a Rose Garden press conference on Monday, the White House incorrectly transcribed a remark made by President Donald Trump to reporter Cecilia Vega.
The president spoke about the new trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the U.S. and then opened a question-and-answer session by calling on Vega of ABC News. Vega stood up and waited to be handed a microphone.
Trump: "She's shocked that I picked her. She's in a state of shock."
Vega: "I'm not. Thank you, Mr. President."
Trump: "That's okay, I know you're not thinking. You never do."
Vega: "I'm sorry?"
Trump: "No, go ahead."
In a video of the exchange, Vega can clearly be heard saying the lines quoted above. However, a White House transcript quotes the president as saying "I know you're not thanking. You never do."
Jeez. @CeciliaVega tells Trump she isn't shocked he called on her. Trump says "I know you weren't thinking, you never do." pic.twitter.com/PX6ReNYZ0Y
— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) October 1, 2018
It seems like the president heard Vega say "I'm not thinking, Mr. President" instead of "I'm not. Thank you, Mr. President." That would make sense because Trump responds with "I know you're not thinking." Still, the insult was a bit surprising, not necessarily because Trump was dismissive to a reporter but rather because the comment seemed totally unprompted.
Official @WhiteHouse transcripts misquotes @POTUS today chiding @CeciliaVega (compare video to text). I was sitting just behind her in the Rose Garden and we all clearly heard him say: "I know you're not thinking. You never do." https://t.co/Q2frFLjpKx pic.twitter.com/vIYoYOzXrS
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) October 2, 2018
U.S. Supreme Court justices receive lifetime appointments to the bench, but many wonder if indefinite terms do more harm to our legal system than good.
- With a second nomination to the Supreme Court, President Trump has the ability to alter the political leanings of the country's highest court for decades.
- The Founding Fathers gave justices and other federal judges a lifetime appointment to prevent them from being influenced by other branches of government.
- Today, many argue that federal judges should be subject to term limits as modern politics and life expectancy have outpaced the Founders' original vision.
With the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, President Donald Trump scored his second nomination to the United States' highest court. During his term, Trump could potentially receive a third and fourth empty seat on the bench.
Since Supreme Court justices serve for life, such a turn of events would tilt the court toward conservative rulings for decades. Dreading such a future, Democrats have unleashed a salvo of criticisms at Trump's current SCOTUS nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. They have also called for reforms to set term limits for federal judges.
On his show Last Week Tonight, liberal-leaning comedian John Oliver argued that term limits are essential for democracy, as lifetime appointments come with a bevy of drawbacks. But it wasn't long ago that Republicans could be heard issuing similar clarion calls.
"I just think that people—whether they're in the legislative, executive, or judicial branch—shouldn't see their appointment to an office as permanent," Mike Huckabee told CNN during his 2015 run for the Republican nomination. "It would be that they have no accountability whatsoever."
If there is bipartisan agreement that term limits can be problematic, then why do Supreme Court justices have a lifetime appointment?
The why of lifetime appointments
A close up of the U.S. Constitution. SCOTUS justices are granted a lifetime appointment under Article III, Section 1.
(Photo by Tetra Images/Getty Images)
The U.S. Constitution doesn't specifically grant Supreme Court justices a lifetime appointment. Instead, Article III, Section 1, states that federal judges "shall hold their Offices during good Behavior" and… that's it. As long as federal judges don't commit a crime — and remember their pleases and thank yous — they keep their seat.
The phrase "during good Behavior" translates to a lifetime appointment because the Founders set no specific term or age limit for service. This means that the only actions that can remove a federal judge are death, resignation, or impeachment by Congress.
Most federal judges exit by way of death or resignation, with impeachment coming into play sparingly. Only 15 federal judges in U.S. history have ever been impeached and never a Supreme Court justice. Of the 113 justices to serve, only two have been faced with the threat of impeachment.
In 1804, the House impeached Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase, but he was not convicted by the Senate, and he continued to serve on the bench until his death in 1811. In 1969, Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas resigned under threat of impeachment. There have been other calls for impeachment, of course, but these two stories represent the farthest such actions have managed to hinder a justice's career.
For the record, justices serve on average for 16 years. However, when we only take into consideration justices from after the 1970s, the average jumps to 26 years. The longest-serving justice was William O. Douglas, who sat on the bench for 36 years, seven months, and eight days.
Reasons for a lifetime appointment
This conversation is uniquely American. No other major democracy grants federal judges lifetime tenure. Some have mandatory retirement ages, some set term limits, and some do both. But the Founding Fathers had very specific concerns they were trying to counter with such a far-reaching policy.
Returning to the Constitution, Article III, Section 1, also states that federal judges shall receive compensation and that compensation "shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office." (As of Jan. 1, 2018, associate justices receive a salary of $255,300, and the chief justice receives $267,000.)
The reason the Founders set no term limits goes hand-in-hand with their prohibition on diminishing wages: Both serve to prevent the legislative and executive branches from manipulating the courts. The wording of Article III means that neither the president nor Congress can institute term limits or a pay cut, ensuring judges are secure in their job and beholden to neither branch's whims.
Alexander Hamilton made this argument overt in The Federalist Papers: No. 78. "If, then, the courts of justice are to be considered as the bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments, this consideration will afford a strong argument for the permanent tenure of judicial offices," Hamilton wrote, "since nothing will contribute so much as this to that independent spirit in the judges which must be essential to the faithful performance of so arduous a duty."
These Constitutional freedoms should (in theory) put justices above politics and allow them to rule through a fair, unbiased interpretation of the law. Rising above partisan politics would also allow the Supreme Court to stand as a lawful, counter-majoritarian force that could protect the rights of the minority in the face of popular politics. (Again, in theory. There have been times when the Supreme Court has enshrined popular tyranny into law—looking your way, Dred Scott v. Sandford.)
When it comes to the idea of imposing term limits, some worry that such an act would set a precedent that allows the other branches of government to further shackle the court's power—effectively negating the checks and balances set by the Founding Fathers.
"Imagine if Congress all of a sudden thought […] that it should be regulating the Supreme Court on a much more aggressive basis," said Stephen Vladeck, professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, during a National Constitution Center debate on the subject. "I worry about a precedent where we start opening the door for Congress—especially this Congress—to flex its muscles, to use its power to try new ways to impose more and more constraints on the independence of the justices."
Should we set term limits on SCOTUS justices?
United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Appointed by President Clinton, Justice Ginsburg continues to serve at 85 years old.
(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
But others on all points of the political spectrum say these arguments, while well intended, don't balance out the downsides of lifetime appointments. Some even argue that such aspirations for apolitical judges are wishful thinking.
"It's impossible for a position like this not to have political ramifications," argued Alan Morrison, professor at George Washington University Law, during the aforementioned National Constitution Center debate. He added:
Given the content of the work that they do and the kinds of questions they have to answer, does anybody really think that justices call balls and strikes—when the question is whether due process has been violated [or] whether the death penalty is a cruel and unusual punishment? Obviously, these are political offices, but unlike other political offices, people stay for a very, very long time.
Others note that lifetime terms add a factor of randomness in determining the court's makeup, a decidedly undemocratic mechanism in our system. Writing for the Week, Matt Bruenig points out that Jimmy Carter nominated no Supreme Court justices, yet Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated five. Bill Clinton appointed two in his two terms, while George H.W. Bush appointed the same number in one.
"Filling up the court in such a random manner makes its overall political composition more random as well," writes Bruenig, "rather than a democratic reflection of the political trends of the country as a whole."
Finally, there is the question of age. When Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers, the average life expectancy in the Americas was about 35 years. Today, it is 77 years.
This means justices will serve much longer tenures on average than they did in the past. Such term lengths can prevent the bench from being updated to mirror social and culture progress. In the court's 228-year history, for example, only six of 113 justices have not been white men—two African-American men and four women.
Age also adds a political element to the bench. Justices will often choose to retire when a president is in office who echoes their political views, ensuring their seat continues to vote as they would.
"Justices have a conflicting set of obligations," Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, told the New York Times. "On the one hand, they have an obligation to serve their terms as long as they feel it's in the interest of the nation, and as long as they feel they can do the job well. But they have a conflicting desire, which is to perpetuate their view on the court. It's a political and personal judgement which they have to make for themselves."
Such worries extend to the justices themselves, who may hold onto their seats well beyond the point when their health fails them (as happened to Justice Thurgood Marshall). There is also the concern of what would happen if a justice developed dementia or lost other mental faculties.
Can anything be done?
Not much. The majority of Americans agree that term limits for federal judges should be enacted, but setting a such a limit would take an act of Congress.
Could both parties ultimately come to an agreement that such limits are beneficial? Maybe, but even if they did, it seems unlikely a situation would arise in which neither party felt such an act would not benefit one party over the other. Not to mention the bad blood from years of politicking to secure seats on the bench, such as the Merrick Garland incident.
The only real recourse the average American has is to vote for representatives that support their views, whether those views are for or against term limits.