June 11, 2014

Scott Esk, a Republican candidate for Oklahoma's state legislature, says on his campaign website that "rights come from God — not from government." One of those rights, apparently: Being free to stone homosexuals to death.

As the The Moore Daily discovered, Esk last summer responded to another person's Facebook post about the Pope with scripture passages seemingly condoning the harsh punishment of gays. When someone asked him if he meant "we should execute homosexuals (presumably by stoning)," Esk responded in the affirmative.

"I think we would be totally in the right to do it," he wrote. "That goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I'm largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss."

Esk clarified to The Moore Daily that God did indeed condone death by stoning in the Bible, but added, "I have no plans to reinstitute that in Oklahoma law." Jon Terbush

12:32 p.m.

Fox News' Chris Wallace is putting President Trump on blast for his "sustained assault" on freedom of the press.

Wallace spoke Wednesday night at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., saying Trump "is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history," Mediaite reports. He went on to say these attacks by Trump on press freedom have actually "done some damage," citing a poll in which nearly a third of Americans said the First Amendment goes "too far."

The Fox News anchor would certainly know all about Trump's attacks on the press, seeing as he has frequently been a specific target of the president's. Just last month, Trump labeled Wallace "nasty" and "obnoxious" after he challenged House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) in an interview. On Fox News, Wallace has also broken from his colleagues in his analysis of the Ukraine scandal, in September calling the whistleblower complaint against Trump "damaging" and slamming the "astonishing" and "deeply misleading" spin from pro-Trump circles.

Wallace did conclude his speech Wednesday on a positive note, though, saying that as "we've seen presidents come and go," "we will endure" and "so will freedom of the press." Brendan Morrow

12:10 p.m.

We've heard this one before.

On Thursday, in one of his 80-plus tweets before 10 a.m., President Trump shared an all-too-familiar refrain: "Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China." It's a deal Trump has been talking about for more than a year, and has been promising is just around the corner for just as long.

A dive back into Trump's tweets since the summer of 2018 and even before show dozens of mentions of a trade deal with China. By his account, in September 2018, China was "under pressure to make a deal with us." As of December 14, 2018, tariffs against China were working so well that a deal "could happen, and rather soon," Trump tweeted. And on February 26 of this year, Trump said the two countries were "getting very, very close" to signing a deal — yes, that's an extra "very" from Trump's more recent announcement.

Trump's "very close" mantra came up again in April, with Trump suggesting there could be an agreement made in the following four weeks. Then came some apparent fallout, where China "attempted renegotiation of the trade deal," Trump tweeted in May. It took until Nov. 20 for Trump to say the U.S. and China were back at their "very close" stage, which, considering the first times those words came up, could mean everything or nothing at all. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:47 a.m.

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) urged Republicans to mount a "substantive" defense of President Trump's conduct, rather than focus on "farcical process arguments," at Thursday's impeachment hearing.

The House Judiciary Committee met Thursday to debate the two articles of impeachment against Trump, which the committee is set to vote on. Republicans during the hearing criticized the process of the impeachment inquiry, with Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) saying "the rules have been thrown out the window here in this process" while slamming the "closed-door hearings in the basement" held by House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). She also objected to the fact that "I was denied several times, several times, the right to go in and hear what these fact witnesses said."

Neguse followed her by criticizing process arguments like these and encouraging the committee's members to remain focused on the substance of the allegations against Trump.

"It is difficult to follow some of these arguments," Neguse said. "I've heard very little in the way of any substantive defenses of the president's conduct, but instead focus, again, on some very farcical process arguments, in my view."

Neguse specifically responded to Lesko's complaints about Democrats' closed-door hearings, saying Republicans did attend them and that transcripts were released.

"Let's dispense with these process arguments and get to the substance of why we are here today," he added. Brendan Morrow

10:21 a.m.

After more than a decade, and a lot of paciencia y fe, the trailer for In the Heights is here.

Before Lin-Manuel Miranda had a musical hit with Hamilton, he made his Broadway debut with In the Heights, an immigrant story he wrote and starred in based on the Washington Heights neighborhood where he grew up. And after In the Heights got picked up for a movie adaptation in 2008 in plans that eventually went bust, the musical finally has a trailer for its long-awaited June 26, 2020, release.

The trailer, which debuted Thursday, was largely shot in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan that's known for its Latinx- and immigrant-heavy population. That's where we meet Usnavi, a bodega owner from the Dominican Republic, played by Anthony Ramos, who originated the role of John Laurens/Philip Hamilton in Hamilton on Broadway. He's joined by Tony nominee Corey Hawkins as the taxi dispatcher Benny, Tropical artist Leslie Grace as Nina, and Mexican actress Melissa Barrera as Vanessa.

Crazy Rich Asians' Jon M. Chu directs In the Heights, which the trailer reveals contains immigration protests in favor of Dreamers that weren't a part of the original production. Watch it — and see if you can spot Miranda's cameo — below. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:46 a.m.

Michael Bloomberg's top adviser has his life — and death — planned to a T.

Patti Harris was the deputy to Bloomberg when he was mayor of New York City. She's now chairing his Democratic run for the presidency. And she's the only person who knows where he'll be buried, because "she made all the arrangements," Politico reports.

Bloomberg's burial plot and even make of his coffin were all decided by Harris, and it's the most telling example of how Harris has every aspect of Bloomberg's life under her purview, Politico describes in a profile of their relationship published Thursday. Harris started working for Bloomberg's news business in 1994, and since then, Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey says she's been "the quiet force in everything that Mike has done."

A few years after Harris started working for Bloomberg's business, she shifted to his first mayoral campaign, eventually becoming his deputy mayor when he won the election in 2001. She was known as Bloomberg's cultural foil who "polished him off," one former staffer told Politico, introducing him to the artistic elite of the city and bringing in public art installations. Bloomberg biographer Eleanor Randolph also wrote that "when [Harris] was not around, the mischievous old Mike could slip back into his old ways," telling "dirty jokes" and making sexual suggestions toward women. Harris would immediately curb that just by showing up, Randolph wrote in her new book, The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg, and Harris ended up being his top defender when women accused him of inappropriate behavior ahead of his 2020 run.

Harris declined an interview with Politico, like she does with most media requests. Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:10 a.m.

President Trump is once again mocking 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, this time accusing her of having an "anger management problem."

Thunberg on Wednesday morning was named Time's 2019 person of the year, prompting Trump to, nearly 24 hours later, lash out at the decision as "so ridiculous."

He also mocked Thunberg by saying she must "work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!"

Trump himself was also one of Time's finalists, having been named person of the year in 2016 and suggesting since he deserves it again. Asked last year who should be the 2018 Time person of the year, Trump responded, "I can't imagine anybody else other than Trump, can you imagine anybody else other than Trump?" Time could.

This comes after Trump also mocked Thunberg, who has Asperger's syndrome, following her passionate United Nations speech in September, sarcastically writing, "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" It also comes just over a week after first lady Melania Trump's criticism of an impeachment witness for mentioning 13-year-old Barron Trump's name during her testimony. "A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics," she wrote.

"Asperger's is difficult for teenagers through under any circumstance," The New York Times' Maggie Haberman observed. "Being mocked by the president of the US - whose allies get very angry about what gets said about some children - is its own category."

Following Trump's attack, Thunberg's Twitter bio now reads, "A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend." Brendan Morrow

8:05 a.m.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder is "reluctant to publicly criticize my successors," he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Wednesday night, but the current attorney general, William Barr, "has made a series of public statements and taken actions that are so plainly ideological, so nakedly partisan, and so deeply inappropriate for America’s chief law enforcement official that they demand a response from someone who held the same office."

Among Barr's troubling statement, Holder writes, were his "ode to essentially unbridled executive power" in a Federalist Society speech, his evidence-free attacks on the FBI and Justice Department inspector general, and his "stunning declaration not merely of ideology but of loyalty: to the president and his interests." In fact, Holder said, "to me, his attempts to vilify the president's critics sounded more like the tactics of an unscrupulous criminal defense lawyer than a U.S. attorney general."

"Virtually since the moment he took office," Holder writes, "Barr’s words and actions have been fundamentally inconsistent with his duty to the Constitution. Which is why I now fear that his conduct — running political interference for an increasingly lawless president — will wreak lasting damage." He concluded:

The American people deserve an attorney general who serves their interests, leads the Justice Department with integrity, and can be entrusted to pursue the facts and the law, even — and especially — when they are politically inconvenient and inconsistent with the personal interests of the president who appointed him. William Barr has proved he is incapable of serving as such an attorney general. He is unfit to lead the Justice Department. [Eric Holder, The Washington Post]

Holder wasn't the only former official giving successors advice in the Post on Wednesday — 17 former Watergate special prosecutors also advised their latter-day congressional counterparts that Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors and counseled putting country over party. Read Holder's entire op-ed in The Washington Post. Peter Weber

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