Day in Brief Transcript 10/11/18

“Where do we start? There’s nothing left here.” Those words are echoed by many in Mexico Beach, Florida, ground zero for Hurricane Michael, now believed to be the third most powerful storm on record to hit the US.

At least six people are dead, entire neighborhoods have been wiped out, some Florida cities are in ruins, and nearly a million customers are without power. The devastation is nothing short of astonishing. The damage in Georgia is described as phenomenal and Michael, still a tropical storm at this hour, is continuing to spread flooding rains and strong winds in the Carolinas and Virginia.

It is amazing how people forget. Andrew was 26 years ago. Katrina 13. The damage they caused and the suffering they created still seem like yesterday to me, but I reported on them for months. I can only hope that people will now understand the danger hurricanes pose and take all the needed precautions in the future.

Don’t check your 401(k)s because stocks plunged sharply again on Thursday. The NASDAQ, the worst hit of the equity market indexes, briefly dipped into correction territory, 10% down from recent highs, before bouncing back a little. Recent drops have left the Dow and the S&P 500 close to 6% down from their highs, but still up significantly over the past 12 months.

Trump isn’t happy this is happening, especially a few weeks before the midterms. He slammed the Federal Reserve’s policy of raising interest rates to control inflation, saying the Fed is “going loco,” being far too stringent. Trump got some support from inflation numbers today which showed the core consumer price index going up by 2.2%, less than expected.

Hopes that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would be a moderating force in the Kingdom, are quickly being dashed. US intelligence intercepts reportedly indicate the Crown Prince ordered an operation to lure Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, back to Saudi Arabia, from his home in Virginia.

The journalist disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Turkish government has shown images it says show members of an “assassination team” arriving from Saudi Arabia and accuses them of killing the journalist and disposing of his body.

The Crown Prince reportedly called Jared Kushner earlier this week to deny any involvement in the disappearance and other officials from Saudi Arabia vociferously deny foul play.

If the Saudis murdered the journalist, it will be an inconvenient truth for practitioners of realpolitik including Trump. The Saudis not only have a lot of oil, they are an increasingly crucial cog in the works of US  Mideast policy, growing closer with the Israelis and as a bastion against Iran.

So far, Trump is not blaming anyone. At a Pennsylvania rally last night, he admitted he likes the Saudis because they spend tens of millions on his buildings. And he’s against sanctioning them, saying today that he doesn’t want the Saudis to go spend $110 billion dollars on Russian weapons.

Congress seems to be taking a harder line and has launched an investigation into the journalist’s disappearance.

Reports today say Trump’s legal team is preparing answers to written questions provided by special counsel Robert Mueller. This may signal the Russia investigation is entering a final phase. There is apparently no agreement yet on whether the President will be interviewed in person.

And a close call for American and Russian astronauts. The rocket carrying them to the International Space Station malfunctioned, sending them into a harrowing fall back to earth. Fortunately, the capsule’s parachute deployed and they landed safely.

Finally, Trump met with Kanye West at the White House and it was everything you’d expect it to be. Kanye went on a bizarre, often incomprehensible pro-Trump rambling rant, including expletives, in the Oval Office, in front of cameras. Even the loquacious President was at a loss for words, something Kanye never seems to be.