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October 11, 2018

Johnny Depp is finally responding to the controversy over his Fantastic Beasts casting.

Depp stars as the central villain in the new sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which is written by author J.K. Rowling and set years before the Harry Potter series. Some have criticized Depp's presence in the movie, as his ex-wife, Amber Heard, accused him of domestic violence in 2016. Depp denied her accusations. As part of their divorce settlement, the two released a statement saying that during their relationship there was "never any intent of physical or emotional harm," BuzzFeed News reports. However, when Depp again denied her allegations in a recent interview, Heard's attorney accused him of "psychological abuse" and pointed to "multiple witnesses to Mr. Depp's physical abuse."

Now, Depp tells Entertainment Weekly that J.K. Rowling "knows I was falsely accused" because she has "seen the evidence." Rowling in 2017 had offered a slight defense of keeping Depp onboard the project, but she was careful not to get into the specifics of the case, saying she wanted to respect Depp's and Heard's privacy.

Entertainment Weekly notes that Depp's attorney says unspecified evidence will be presented in court during a defamation case against The Sun next month. The actor added that he "felt bad" that Rowling took so much heat over his casting, but "she doesn't take things lightly" and "would not stand up if she didn't know the truth." Brendan Morrow

10:02a.m.

Six months after his horror debut A Quiet Place tore up the box office, John Krasinski is ready for round two.

Krasinski confirmed this week that he will write the sequel to A Quiet Place after directing, co-writing, and starring in the first movie, which follows a family who must remain silent in order to survive in a world overtaken by monsters with sensitive hearing. He said at a Wednesday event that he originally planned to not be involved in the second movie at all, and although he did come up with a "small idea," he told Paramount Pictures to go ahead and find new writers for it.

But as Paramount began to hear pitches, he thought about that "small idea" more and more. "And then I thought, 'this might really work,'" Krasinski said, per The Hollywood Reporter. So now, he's in the midst of writing the film, although he may or may not he return as its director. From the sounds of it, Krasinski is writing the movie alone, whereas the original was rewritten from a script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck.

Krasinski has admitted that he never thought of a second movie while making the original Quiet Place. But after it became a total box office juggernaut, a sequel was announced almost immediately, scheduled for release in May 2020. While there's no word yet on what Krasinski's idea might be, he previously teased that a follow-up could revolve around a completely different set of characters, telling Deadline, "I think it would be interesting to see what’s going on elsewhere at this same time." Brendan Morrow

9:02a.m.

Ready to go through the 2016 election all over again?

Philippe Reines, who worked for Hillary Clinton going back to 2002 and was her senior adviser at the State Department, made the argument to Politico Friday that the former Democratic nominee might actually be the party's best hope for defeating Trump in 2020. He said no other Democrat has "anywhere near a base of 32 million people," especially not Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The party, he feels, shouldn't dismiss her as a failed candidate because she's "smarter" and "tougher" than most, and she "could raise money easier than most."

But it doesn't sound like this is just wishful thinking on his part. He really thinks it could happen, saying the chances of Clinton running in 2020 are "not zero.”

Publicly, Clinton has said she will not run again, but Reines doesn't sound so sure she'll keep her word on that. Politico explored Clinton's careful re-entry into the political arena, noting that she's going on tour with former President Bill Clinton this fall and has reportedly even called up journalists who cover the White House to put out "the occasional feeler."

Despite her non-zero interest in public office, her favorability is even lower than it was in 2016. A recent Gallup poll found that Clinton is now polling at 36 percent — five points lower than President Trump. Read more about her political future at Politico. Brendan Morrow

8:04a.m.

Turnout for the last midterm elections was embarrassingly poor, but this year, things are looking different.

As early voting surges in some states, election expert Michael McDonald told Talking Points Memo Friday he's predicting a turnout of between 45 and 50 percent of eligible voters. That would be the highest figure since at least 1970, when turnout hit 47 percent, and could possibly be the highest since 1966, when turnout was 49 percent, NPR reports.

This is a significant turnaround from the 2014 midterms, when just 36 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, the worst showing since World War II, per PBS. The 2018 upswing isn't entirely surprising, though, considering turnout was also way up in primary elections earlier this year; about 37 million people participated in House primaries, compared to 24 million four years ago, Pew Research Center reports.

Early voting has already hit very high numbers in several states, from Georgia to Tennessee and Kansas. McDonald told TPM that the data he's seeing so far is "very unusual," especially in Georgia, where three times as many people have cast their ballots than did by this point in 2014. He added, "I've never seen anything like this." Brendan Morrow

7:35a.m.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are progressing with their parallel investigations into the Oct. 2 disappearance of Saudi journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi, last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Turkey says it has evidence a 15-man Saudi death squad killed and dismembered Khashoggi inside the consulate, and a Turkish official told The Associated Press on Friday that authorities are looking into the possibility that the Saudis buried Khashoggi's remains in the nearby Belgrade Forest or the city of Yalova, where consulate vehicles traveled separately on Oct. 2. CNN reports that Turkish intelligence agents searched one of the two Saudi chartered jets that carried the 15 Saudis to and from Istanbul, and it did not appear to contain anything suspicious.

There's speculation that only a Saudi ruler could order a 15-man hit squad to murder a U.S. resident inside a Saudi consulate, but the Saudis "are considering blaming a top intelligence official close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi," The New York Times reported Thursday, citing three people with knowledge of the Saudi plans. "The plan to assign blame to Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a high-ranking adviser to the crown prince, would be an extraordinary recognition of the magnitude of international backlash to hit the kingdom," and it would make it "technically plausible" that the crown prince didn't ordered the killing.

"The Saudi rulers are expected to say that General Assiri received oral authorization from Prince Mohammed to capture Mr. Khashoggi for an interrogation in Saudi Arabia, but either misunderstood his instructions or overstepped that authorization and took the dissident's life," two people told the Times. "People close to the White House have already been briefed and given General Assiri's name." Peter Weber

5:52a.m.

The presumed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudis is probably the big story of the week, Stephen Colbert told Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Thursday's Late Show. "What do you make of the president's response so far?" "Pathetic," said Brzezinski. "A complete embarrassment," Scarborough concurred. "We now are basically selling out our interests nationwide, our values, and who we are as a nation, for money."

"Listen, we need nothing from Saudi Arabia," Scarborough said, not their money, not their oil. "These people took a Washington Post columnist, a Virginia resident who has two American children, and sawed him up while he was alive for criticizing a Saudi leader in The Washington Post." The U.S. has aligned itself with some problematic regimes, and "we had to turn a blind eye to some things that we shouldn't have turned a blind eye to. It always catches up to us in the end," Scarborough said. "We can do better," and that requires voting. Regardless of your party affiliation, he argued, "you have to agree that Donald Trump needs to be checked."

Colbert switched to a different election. Scarborough and Brzezinski listed Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as "reasonable" Democratic hopefuls for 2020, and when Colbert asked if any Republican will primary Trump, Scarborough said yes they would, but the won't have to. "I don't think Donald Trump's going to run for re-election," he predicted. "He's gonna cash out."

"I think that would be a smart thing for him to do," Colbert said, seriously, but "I don't want it to happen" because "it's important that the voters of America have an opportunity to say, 'Oops, my bad, we made a mistake there,' and correct themselves, and if Donald Trump doesn't run, he takes away that corrective action of history and therefore his presidency is whole and unjudged." Watch below. Peter Weber

4:22a.m.

Stephen Colbert spent a good two minutes discussing the new self-lubricating condoms on Thursday's Late Show before gracefully pivoting to the latest development with white supremacy. "White supremacists are chugging milk because they want to draw attention to a genetic trait known to be more common in white people than others — the ability to digest lactose as adults," he explained. "Because for white supremacists, lactose is their only form of tolerance."

"Now, I know what you're saying — you're saying, 'Stephen, no one is stupid enough to be proud of drinking milk,'" Colbert said, but the pictures don't lie. And yes, he had pictures. "Pretty exciting stuff, but please move over milk, because toxic masculinity has a new favorite drink, and it's grape juice," he said, drawing attention to Welch's new ad campaign. "That's right: Men! Grape juice is no longer just a reward for kids sitting through a religious ceremony," Colbert joked. "Well, Welch's isn't the only company looking to seem more macho. We also got a sneak peek at an ad campaign for another childhood favorite that just got manned up." The fake ad features a very manly Scott Adsit (30 Rock).

The Late Show also circled back to Colbert's mincing of televangelst Pat Robertson for saying one grisly murder by the Saudi government isn't worth blowing up lucrative American arms sales. And you can watch that update of The Ten Commandments below. Peter Weber

3:40a.m.

President Trump has landed on a familiar theme to try to rev up Republican enthusiasm heading into the final stretch of the 2018 campaign: immigration. And specifically, Latin Americans crossing illegally into the U.S. via the U.S.-Mexico border. Immigration was in many ways the animating force of Trump's 2016 campaign, and while Republicans point to the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation battle as a boost to GOP energy, "the president realizes he needs to keep that momentum going," GOP strategist Matt Moore tells The Wall Street Journal. "Illegal immigration animates the Republican Party base like few other issues."

But, the Journal notes, "Democrats say the focus on immigration is backfiring by motivating progressives and independent voters," and the poll numbers, so far, are on their side. Trump's hardline immigration policies, including the separation of migrant families, are broadly unpopular, but they poll well among Republicans. "Despite Mr. Trump's focus on the issue, it is barely registering in political advertising by GOP candidates," the Journal reports. "Less than 11 percent of all ads in Senate, House, and governor races through Tuesday had an anti-immigration message, according to Kantar Media/CMAG."

Notably, the focus on Trump's immigration policies may hurt Republicans in the suburban House districts they need to win to keep control of Congress. Trump "clearly views it as one of the reasons for his political success," says GOP pollster David Winston. "But it's still all about the economy and jobs." You can read more immigration politics and the midterms at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

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