Opinion writer

* Erin Cunningham and John Wagner report that President Trump seems to be moving toward an acknowledgement of the obvious:

President Trump said Thursday it appears that Jamal Khashoggi is dead and warned that his administration could consider “very severe” measures against Saudi Arabia, sharply raising pressures on the kingdom as it prepares its own accounting of the journalist’s disappearance.

Trump’s remarks reflect apparent shifting strategies and views in the White House over its response and possible punishments toward one of its key Middle East allies.

As he boarded a flight to Montana for a political rally, Trump was asked by a journalist if he believed Khashoggi was dead.

“It certainly looks that way to me,” he said. “It’s very sad.”

He added that Saudi Arabia could face a “very severe” U.S. response depending on the results of the self-run investigation by the kingdom into the disappearance of Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen and Washington Post contributing columnist.

“I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff. But we’ll see what happens,” Trump said.

In Trump speak, “We’ll see what happens” means “I won’t be doing anything.”

* Adam Liptak reports that conservatives are becoming even more brazen in their attempts to turn the courts into a Republican stronghold:

The closed-door “training academy” was aimed at a select group: recent law school graduates who had secured prestigious clerkships with federal judges. It was organized by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative group that has played a leading role in moving the courts to the right, and it had some unusual requirements.

“Generous donors,” the application materials said, were making “a significant financial investment in each and every attendee.” In exchange, the future law clerks would be required to promise to keep the program’s teaching materials secret and pledge not to use what they learned “for any purpose contrary to the mission or interest of the Heritage Foundation.”

The conservative legal movement has made bold moves before, and it has long cultivated law students and young lawyers, partly to ensure a deep bench of potential judicial nominees. The Heritage Foundation, along with the Federalist Society, helped compile the lists of potential Supreme Court nominees from which President Trump chose his two appointees, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. The two groups also helped identify many of the scores of Mr. Trump’s appointees to the lower federal courts.

But legal experts said the effort by Heritage to train and influence law clerks raised serious ethical questions and could undermine the duties the clerks have to the justice system and to the judges they will serve.

Ya think? Training court clerks to be right-wing ideological warriors might raise some ethical questions?

* Sabrina Siddiqui has a rundown of all the absurd Trumpian fear-based arguments Republican candidates are running in their immigration ads to scare voters to the polls.

* James Downie explains why Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is the Trump administration’s new Scott Pruitt. Because what this country really needs is another Scott Pruitt right about now.

* Brian Beutler talks to ex-felons about the need to restore their voting rights, vividly illustrating why this is one of the great civil rights issues of our time.

* Ari Berman reports on how Democratic secretaries of state could stem the tide of GOP vote suppression.

* Gabrielle Gurley takes a look at Mary Mayhew, aka “Mary Mayhem,” who was just appointed by President Trump to gut Medicaid.

* Rick Hasen explains why liberals will have to bone up on their “originalism” and “textualism,” bogus though they may be, if they have any chance of winning over conservative justices now and again.

* Kurt Bardella says that Trump’s reaction to Jamal Khashoggi’s apparent murder sure makes him look like he’s bought and paid for by the Saudis.

* Maggie Koerth-Baker explains why political campaigns don’t like to listen to what political scientists tell them.

* Annie Lowrey examines a new tax plan being offered by Sen. Kamala Harris.

* Adam Davidson explains how fraud is central to the business model of the Trump Organization.

* Glenn Kessler explains how reporting on Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test got the facts completely wrong.

* And David Dayen reports on how one Democratic congressional candidate in Texas is trying to win over Asian-Americans, by talking to them in 13 different languages.