March 27, 2014

It's hard to imagine Steven Spielberg's Lincoln without Daniel Day-Lewis' Oscar-winning central performance — but Day-Lewis wouldn't have been there if Liam Neeson hadn't voluntarily dropped out of the project. Why would any actor voluntarily vacate such a slam-dunk role? In a new cover story at GQ, Liam Neeson describes the moment he realized he was the wrong actor to play Abraham Lincoln.

According to Neeson, Steven Spielberg first approached him to star in an early version of Lincoln 10 years ago. He spent four years researching to play Lincoln in what he describes as "a wonderful kind of old-fashioned biography of Lincoln," which began with his inauguration and ended with his death. But Tony Kushner's script rewrite narrowed Lincoln's focus to the final four months of the president's life, as he worked to push the 13th amendment through the House of Representatives.

The trouble began when Neeson sat down with Lincoln's cast and creative team for a table read. "We started reading this, and there was an intro, and then I see 'Lincoln' where I have to start speaking, and I just — a thunderbolt moment. I thought, 'I'm not supposed to be here. This is gone. I've passed my sell-by date. I don't want to play this Lincoln. I can't be him," says Neeson.

"I read very, very poorly by any standards, but then some people come up afterward and say, 'Oh, you're made to play Lincoln.' I just was cringing with embarrassment. Afterward, Steven came over, and I said, 'Steven, you have to recast this now.' And he said, 'What are you talking about?' And I said, 'I'm serious. You have to recast it.' So I went back home, and that night I called [Doris Kearns Goodwin], and I had a wee chat with her. And then I called Steven, and I said, 'Steven, this is not for me. I can't explain it. It's gone. It's not...' And he got it. He said, 'Okay.' And that was it."

Still dreaming of an Abraham Lincoln biopic starring Liam Neeson? You may get your wish someday. "I'd still like to do Lincoln's story," Neeson conceded. "I think [Lincoln] shows him, yes, but I think I'd still like to do an old-fashioned biography of Lincoln." Scott Meslow

8:17 a.m. ET
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly met with Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in 2016 to consider a regional peace initiative negotiated by then-Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Sunday. The covert talks took place in Jordan last February, and terms of the agreement Netanyahu would ultimately reject included renewed peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leadership as well as Arab nations' recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Netanyahu confirmed Sunday that the meeting took place and said in a gathering of Likud ministers that it occurred at his initiation. He did not accept the conditions Kerry proposed because he did not believe he could win approval from his coalition government.

History will "definitely judge the magnitude of the opportunity as well as the magnitude of the missed opportunity," tweeted Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog in response to the news on Sunday. Bonnie Kristian

8:00 a.m. ET
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Two memos proposing stricter deportation guidelines for asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors have been sent from Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to the White House for approval, McClatchy reported Saturday afternoon. The documents are dated Feb. 17 and have yet to receive final go-ahead from the president.

One memo would increase deportations by giving asylum officers greater discretion to deny asylum requests. At present, 88 percent of asylum seekers pass their initial interview with field officers; they then wait in the U.S. for a court hearing (sometimes a multi-year delay), at which point only 18 percent successfully gain asylum. Under the new guidelines, officers would be more likely to deny applicants at the interview stage if they believe the asylum seeker does not have a "significant possibility" of winning in court.

The second memo concerns children who travel to the U.S. alone to meet parents already living here illegally. Those children would be more likely to face deportation, and their parents could face criminal charges if they paid a human trafficker to transport their child. Bonnie Kristian

February 18, 2017
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President Trump finished his campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday with a sweeping call to a new national — and nationalist — unity in America. After earlier decrying the media for unsatisfactory coverage of his event, Trump enthused that the movement his campaign inspired "has been written about on the cover of every magazine all over the world." Its success is indicative of the fact that "people want to take back control of their country," he said, "and they want to take back control of their lives and the lives of their family."

Trump went on to argue that "the nation-state remains the greatest model for human happiness, and America remains the greatest symbol of justice and liberty" on Earth. Thus, he said, Americans must develop "a new loyalty rooted" in our shared destiny and allegiance to our flag. "Erasing national borders does not make people safer or more prosperous," Trump continued. "It undermines democracy and trades away prosperity."

Instead of embracing globalism, he added, Americans will "replace chasms of distrust with new bridges of opportunity and cooperation." This, the president concluded, "will make America great again — greater than ever before." Bonnie Kristian

February 18, 2017
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After addressing his economic agenda, President Trump turned to matters of crime and drugs at his campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday. He pledged to "destroy transnational criminal cartels which are all over the United States" and "stop the drugs from" entering American communities and "poisoning our youth."

From there Trump transitioned seamlessly to immigration and national security, pledging to support U.S. veterans and "rebuild" the military. "I've ordered the construction of a great border wall which will start very shortly," he said, "and I've taken decisive action to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country."

On the subject of his suspended immigration executive order — twice defeated in court and currently in legal limbo — Trump argued that the court rulings do not cite the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 because if they were to do so, it would become evident that his order is legally justified. He read a portion of the law in support of his case and promised new action on the matter soon. "I listened to these judges talk and talk and talk. So unfair," Trump said. "So we'll be doing something in the next couple of days. We don't give up. We never give up." Bonnie Kristian

February 18, 2017
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President Trump's speech at his campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday began with his "big" and "bold" economic agenda, a plan Trump said will make "a new day in America, you're gonna be proud again."

"You want lower taxes, less regulation, millions of new jobs, and more products stamped with those beautiful, beautiful words, 'made in the USA,'" Trump said, because "when American workers win, America as a country wins and wins big." Among his specific goals, Trump spoke of "put[ting] the miners back to work" on "clean, very clean coal;" his administration's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); the 35 percent outsourcing tax — "They're not leaving, and if they do, they're gonna pay a very big price" — and oil pipelines including the Dakota Access Pipeline.

From there, Trump turned to the Environmental Protection Agency, newly headed by Trump nominee Scott Pruitt. Before he took office, the EPA was "clogging up the veins of our country with the environmental impact statements and all the rules and regulations," Trump argued. "It meant no jobs." Now, by contrast, "a spirit of optimism is sweeping — and you see it, it's sweeping across the country," Trump said, citing as evidence growth in the stock market and "every poll" pertaining to American optimism. Bonnie Kristian

February 18, 2017
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With a dramatic entrance in which Air Force One taxied up to a stair car, and then the stair car taxied up to Air Force One, President Trump arrived with first lady Melania Trump at his campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday to enthusiastic applause.

Melania took the podium first, opening with a reading of the Lord's Prayer. "It is my honor and great pleasure to stand before you as the first lady of the United States," she said. "The America we envision is one that works for all Americans, and where all Americans can work and succeed."

The president took the microphone soon after, announcing his pleasure in visiting Florida, his "second home" and a key state in his Electoral College victory. "I am now here to tell you about our plans for the future," he said, "and they're big and they're bold and it's what our country is all about."

"I also want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news," he continued. "They don't want to report the truth ... They have become a big part of the problem," Trump said, comparing his troubles with the press to that of great American presidents past, like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Under a Trump administration, the president added, the media will "not get away with it." Bonnie Kristian

February 18, 2017
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President Trump's campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday opened with a joint appearance from Trump surrogates and sisters Lynette "Diamond" Hardaway and Rochelle "Silk" Richardson.

Standing at the podium together, the sisters addressed issues including immigration and congressional opposition to Trump's agenda in Washington: "Any senator or congressman or woman that has a problem with working with the Trump administration needs to pack up their office and head down to the unemployment office and look for another job," they said, "because we are going to vote you out!"

After a rousing conclusion — "He is already making America great again. He is already making America strong again. He is already making America safe again. And we're going to continue to help him make America great again!" — the sisters made way for the mayor of Melbourne and a representative of local law enforcement. Bonnie Kristian

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