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October 18, 2018

While in Turkey on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listened to an audio recording of the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, a senior Turkish official told ABC News on Thursday.

The official said the recording was played during a meeting, and Pompeo was also given a transcript. The Saudi-born Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was living in Virginia, and went to the consulate on Oct. 2 to get paperwork he needed for his upcoming wedding; this was the last time he was seen. Turkish officials have said, and U.S. intelligence increasingly believes, that Saudi Arabia is behind Khashoggi's disappearance and presumed murder. The State Department denied that Pompeo had a transcript of the recording or listened to it.

ABC News also is reporting that Turkish officials believe Khashoggi died of strangulation, after an eight-minute struggle. It's unclear if Pompeo passed the transcript on to Trump, but on Thursday, the president said it "certainly looks like" Khashoggi is dead, and if Saudi Arabia is behind it, the country will face "very severe" consequences. Catherine Garcia

4:57 p.m.

It wasn't all about obstruction.

In the redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report released Thursday, there were also plenty of findings about what sparked this whole extravaganza: Russian election interference. Here are four of them, from the terrifying to the downright comical.

1. A previous Mueller indictment showed that when then-candidate Donald Trump called on Russia to find his opponent Hillary Clinton's "missing" emails in July 2016, they were listening. This full report shows that the GRU, Russia's foreign intelligence agency, took less than five hours to start targeting email accounts within Clinton's personal office after Trump asked Russia to "find those 30,000 emails."

2. Mueller took the time to spell out this whole dilemma, in which former White House staffer Hope Hicks was unsure of how to verify if an email actually came from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and in which Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner forgot the Russian ambassador's name and also how to use Google.

3. The GRU has a "bitcoin mining operation to secure bitcoins used to purchase computer infrastructure used in hacking operations," the report found — an idea the U.S. could perhaps borrow to cut the deficit.

4. A Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency deployed thousands of posts across social media in the U.S. It also did this pretty weird thing, per Mueller's report.

Find the whole report here, and another Russian tidbit about the infamous pee tapes here. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:16 p.m.

If more compromising tapes of President Trump exist, it seems Special Counsel Robert Mueller wasn't able to find them.

Still, that doesn't mean Russians weren't very aware of the so-called "pee tapes" — seemingly nonexistent footage of Trump telling prostitutes to perform some rather disturbing acts rumored to exist in the Steele dossier. And that doesn't mean one Russian didn't game those purported recordings to his advantage.

The somewhat forgotten pee tapes actually got a mention in the redacted Mueller report released Thursday, though not in the way some Trump enemies would've hoped. In a footnote, Mueller said that Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen got a text from a Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze that said he "stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there's anything else." Rtskhiladze said a Russian real estate group that helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia had the tapes. Probably not coincidentally, Trump's alleged pee tape was said to have been made while he was in Russia for that pageant.

The tapes were fake, but Rtskhiladze didn't tell Cohen that, per Mueller's report. Cohen also said he talked to Trump "about the issue after receiving the texts," meaning this rumor could've gone all the way to the top.

There are plenty more details in the Mueller report, though none are quite this scintillating. Read it all here. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:00 p.m.

It's a big day for President Trump, but it is an especially big day for the Democrats who hope to run against him in 2020.

Some candidates issued tweets accusing Attorney General William Barr of bias and unfair redactions:

Other candidates hit the president for putting his own interests ahead of the country's:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) expressed frustration with the number of redactions in the report:

Sen. Cory Booker's (N.J.) team released their own searchable version of the Mueller report:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) issued a video calling for Mueller to testify:

Several candidates did not issue any statements at all at the time of publication, including Beto O'Rourke, Tulsi Gabbard, and Jay Inslee. Jeva Lange

4:00 p.m.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) doesn't feel any differently about impeachment in light of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.

Hoyer told CNN's Dana Bash on Thursday that "based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point." The top Democrat had in January called impeachment talk a "distraction" but said that "we'll have to see what the Mueller report says," per The Hill.

Now that the report is out, Hoyer still feels these issues should be litigated at the ballot box in 2020 rather than through the impeachment process, telling CNN, "Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgement." Hoyer previously made this argument in March and told Fox News that impeachment is an "extraordinarily all-consuming process."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has similarly said that impeaching Trump is "just not worth it," per The Washington Post, but she has yet to make a similar statement since the release of Mueller's report. Brendan Morrow

3:04 p.m.

The differences between Attorney General William Barr's and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's conclusion on obstruction are night and day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Thursday.

Pelosi and Schumer in a statement said the "differences are stark between what Attorney General Barr said on obstruction and what Special Counsel Mueller said on obstruction." They also said that Mueller's report, the redacted version of which was released hours earlier, "appears to undercut" Barr's conclusion that Trump did not obstruct justice.

Barr had said in his four-page summary to Congress that Mueller's report does not make a determination on obstruction but "also does not exonerate him." Barr explained that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined there was insufficient evidence that Trump criminally obstructed justice.

While the report indeed does not reach a conclusion obstruction, it does outline 10 instances of potential obstruction and says that "if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state." Mueller's report also says that Congress has the authority to make this determination. Barr said in a press conference prior to the report's release that he "disagreed" with some of Mueller's legal theories on obstruction.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) also slammed Barr on Thursday, saying he "fundamentally mischaracterized" the report during his Thursday press conference, while House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Barr's statements were "disingenuous" and "misleading." Brendan Morrow

2:59 p.m.

Depending on whom you ask, the president is either having a great day or a terrible one. Luckily, the internet is the winner either way. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report into Russian election meddling was heavily redacted, as was expected, here are a few of the best spoofs and commentaries about the redactions and how one or two well-placed black boxes can change a whole paragraph. Jeva Lange

7. Pardon?

6. Your sharpie is going to run out of ink.

5. Nothing to see here.

4. This is [redacted].

3. One of those days.

2. Should have seen this one coming.

1. A Tale of Two Special Counsel Reports.

2:36 p.m.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an escape plan all along.

Sessions had been one of President Trump's top internal enemies after he recused himself from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation in early 2017. According to that same investigation, released with redactions on Thursday, that move convinced Trump to fire Sessions in July 2017 before eventually backing down. Trump did turn to insulting Sessions on Twitter, though, and those "frequent public attacks" had Sessions worried, the report says. In fact, that July, Sessions wrote a resignation letter of his own and "for the rest of the year carried it with him in his pocket every time he went to the White House," Sessions' then-chief of staff Jody Hunt told Mueller investigators.

Sessions ended up sticking it out, and was eventually forced to resign the day after 2018's midterm elections. Read the whole report here. Kathryn Krawczyk

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