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May 7, 2014

Last night's GOP Senate primary in North Carolina was billed as a surrogate battle in the Republican Civil War between the establishment and grassroots. But it ended up being more of a surrender than a battle. And since establishment candidate Thom Tillis easily trounced his two grassroots conservative opponents, it would be easy to declare today that the tea party is toast.

The truth is probably more complicated than that. In fact, if the tea party didn't show up, or put up much of a fight, it might be because they already won the war. I'll let The Atlantic's Molly Ball explain:

[I]f Tillis represented the Republican establishment — something he denies, of course; it is not a label anyone embraces — he also represents the party's new, post-Tea Party mainstream. He was endorsed by National Right to Life and the National Rifle Association. As House speaker during a time when Republicans took over North Carolina's government for the first time since 1896, he oversaw a dramatic slate of rightward policies, from tax cuts to voter ID, that he terms a "conservative revolution."

It was hard for opponents to paint Tillis as a liberal when actual liberals were picketing his initiatives on the steps of the statehouse in Raleigh on a regular basis. If this race is any indication, the "Republican civil war" storyline so beloved of pundits in recent years may have to be retired... [The Atlantic]

The theory goes like this: In the beginning, the GOP establishment had grown old and fat and corrupt, and the tea party bench was full of young and talented and pure candidates. And so, when quality candidates like former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio and former Rep. and Club for Growth head Pat Toomey challenged moderate GOP candidates like then-Gov. Charlie Crist (Fla.) and then-Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) — both of whom later became Democrats — it was like picking low-hanging fruit.

But there are only so many Rubios and Toomeys (and only so many Crists and Specters). So it gets increasingly harder to replicate this success. The well of quality tea party candidates goes dry, and eventually, you're scraping the bottom. What's more, the early victories send a message to the old guard that they'd better clean up their act.

And so, the tea party message gets co-opted by the establishment — which, for tea party conservatives, ought to be cause for celebration; incumbents who want to survive either get religion, or get ousted.

If the tea party is having a bad year, it's only because they are a victim of their own success. Matt K. Lewis

2:53 p.m. ET

Senate Majority Leader Mitch "Cocaine" McConnell (R-Ky.) "enjoyed" his re-election campaign's taunt of Senate candidate Don Blankenship after the former coal executive and ex-convict lost the West Virginia Republican primary to the state's attorney general earlier this month. Team Mitch's taunt had raised some eyebrows at the time for apparently relishing Blankenship's nickname for McConnell, "Cocaine Mitch," as well as for featuring McConnell in Pablo Escobar Narcos-inspired attire:

"It sorta softened my image," McConnell reflected to Politico. "Don't you think?" Jeva Lange

1:46 p.m. ET
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

President Trump announced on Thursday that he would posthumously pardon Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion.

Johnson was arrested in 1912 for driving his white girlfriend over state lines. Prosecutors said it violated the Mann Act, which prohibited crossing state borders with a woman for "immoral purposes." Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to a year in prison. He then fled the country for several years before eventually coming back to serve his time. The case is now often seen as emblematic of racism entrenched in the U.S. justice system.

Johnson died in 1946. His pardoning marks the third-ever posthumous pardon in U.S. history, reports USA Today. The Obama administration opted not to pardon Johnson in part because of allegations of domestic violence against women, The New York Times reports.

Other boxing champions were invited to the pardoning ceremony, the Times reports. Sylvester Stallone was also at the White House on Thursday — his conversation with Trump in April is reportedly what inspired the president to revisit Johnson's case. Summer Meza

1:24 p.m. ET

As the world reels from the news that President Trump will not meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un in June as was expected, the commander in chief is hanging out in the Oval Office with … Rambo.

Sylvester Stallone was at the White House for the pardoning of black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who was convicted in 1913 of transporting his white girlfriend across state lines, The New York Times reports. Trump was convinced to pardon Jackson after talking to Stallone following the funeral of Barbara Bush in April.

As it turns out, Trump isn't the only one to unwind with Stallone in Washington lately. Jeva Lange

12:30 p.m. ET

Names are important — sometimes all it takes is a great name to realize someone is a winner. But even President Trump, who made his riches off of the association of his surname with all things gold and luxurious, gets name envy sometimes.

"I think you have the greatest name in politics," Trump raved to Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) on Thursday. "If I had that name I would have been president 10 years sooner."

You've gotta admit — McHenry University, McHenry Steaks, McHenry Vodka. It's kind of got a ring. Jeva Lange

12:17 p.m. ET

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) claimed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is likely having "a giggle fit right now" over President Trump's letter calling off their planned summit in Singapore next month.

Kim "got global recognition and regard," Pelosi went on. "He's the big winner. When he got this letter from the president saying 'okay, never mind' — he must be having a giggle fit right there now in North Korea." Pelosi said that it was clear Trump didn't know what he was getting into in the negotiations with Pyongyang, and mocked the language used in his "very chummy, palsy-walsy letter." Watch below. Jeva Lange

12:17 p.m. ET
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

President Trump's Thursday announcement that he would not travel to Singapore next month for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed to catch the South Korean government off guard.

"We are attempting to make sense of what, precisely, President Trump means," said South Korean government spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom. South Korean President Moon Jae-In called a late-night emergency meeting to discuss Trump's announcement with top aides and Cabinet members, The Washington Post reports.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to comment on whether or not the U.S. gave South Korea and Japan a warning that Trump would cancel the summit. Pompeo said that North Korea was not responsive over recent weeks while the U.S. tried to prepare for the meeting. The Post reported on Tuesday that a North Korean delegation didn't show up at a recent planning meeting with U.S. leaders. Hours before Trump pulled out of the summit, however, North Korea did make a show of destroying its nuclear test site. Summer Meza

11:41 a.m. ET
Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Turner

Eight women have accused actor Morgan Freeman of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment, reports CNN.

People who worked with Freeman on film sets or during press tours said that the actor would ogle women, try and lift their skirts, engage in inappropriate touching, and make suggestive comments. Freeman did not comment on the allegations. Former employees and coworkers told CNN that Freeman acted like a "creepy uncle" who would make "vulgar" comments about women, often remarking on their bodies and the way they dressed.

"He would be verbally inappropriate and it was just shocking," one former employee of Freeman's production company told CNN. Freeman would allegedly make approving comments when women wore revealing clothing, and one former production assistant said that he repeatedly tried to lift her skirt, asking whether she was wearing underwear.

Eight women said they had been harassed, and eight other people said they had witnessed Freeman's alleged misconduct. The women say they didn't report Freeman's behavior out of fear that it would negatively affect their careers. Some women said they would dress differently when they knew Freeman would be on set, in an attempt to avoid unwanted comments or touching. Read more at CNN. Summer Meza

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