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March 11, 2016

It was a seemingly inconsequential tweet that brought together Mexican actress Kate del Castillo and the notorious drug lord El Chapo. "Mr. Chapo, wouldn't it be cool if you started trafficking with the good? ... Come on señor, you would be the hero of heroes. Let's traffic with love, you know how," she posted in January of 2012.

While a relative unknown in the States, del Castillo made a name for herself in Mexico for her hugely popular role as a drug trafficker in The Queen of the South; both her tweet and her role earned her the attention and respect of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as "El Chapo." Not long after her post, representatives for El Chapo got in touch with del Castillo about giving her the rights to El Chapo's life story, with the hope of del Castillo starring in the ensuing film.

Which is where Sean Penn got involved.

Penn authored a 10,000 word essay for Rolling Stone earlier this year about traveling with del Castillo to meet El Chapo — an essay that was widely criticized for being both totally insane and ethically dubious. While previously only Sean Penn's side of the story was available, del Castillo has since spoken to The New Yorker, raising further questions about Penn's motivations:

The final version [of Penn's article] included this addition: "And then, as it seems we are at the entrance of Oz, the highest peak visibly within reach, we arrive at a military checkpoint. Two uniformed government soldiers, weapons at the ready, approach our vehicle. Alfredo lowers his passenger window; the soldiers back away, looking embarrassed, and wave us through. Wow. So it is, the power of a Guzmán face. And the corruption of an institution." This scene, del Castillo maintains, did not occur: they didn't go through any military checkpoint, much less one where government soldiers waved them on. Sulichin and Ibáñez, who were in the car ahead of del Castillo and Penn, also have no recollection of encountering a military checkpoint. (Penn maintains that his version is correct.) [The New Yorker]

That's not the only discrepancy — and, what's more, Penn allegedly hadn't even been transparent about being on the trip to work on an article in the first place. Read the entire scoop in The New Yorker. Jeva Lange

12:58 p.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday appeared on stage at the first ever Native American presidential forum in Sioux City, Iowa, just days after the Democratic presidential candidate released a set of major policy proposals geared toward solving issues facing tribal nations.

Warren has a complicated history with the indigenous community. In the past she has claimed tribal heritage, including in her professional life. Those claims sparked a controversy that was exacerbated after — in an attempt to push back against name-calling from President Trump — Warren released DNA test results that revealed she had Native American ancestry, prompting Native American leaders and scholars to argue she was actually "undermining tribal interests."

Upon taking the stage at the presidential forum, Warren addressed the issue with an apology before diving into any discussions about policy.

CNN reports that, in addition to attending the presidential forum, Warren's efforts to make amends have included meeting with tribal leaders and releasing the policy proposals, which include measures like instituting a Cabinet-level position for Native American affairs; an influx of money toward housing, health care, and infrastructure on tribal lands; a restoration of lands to indigenous communities; and more attention to the high rates of murdered and missing Native American women.

But not everyone in the indigenous community is sold on the idea that Warren's overtures are genuine, or that her appearance at the forum offered much in the way of substance or reckoning with her mistakes. Tim O'Donnell

12:49 p.m.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is apparently turning his focus to civility.

Christie is launching a new non-profit institute called the Christie Institute of Public Policy with the goal of bringing civility to modern politics, NJ Advance Media reports, with Christie telling the outlet that "unfortunately our politics have gotten so ugly and divisive in the country that people are not having civilized conversations." This institute is to include a series of lectures, the first of which will be with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

The former New Jersey governor might seem like an odd carrier of that message to some, with his tenure having been characterized by combative exchanges like when he famously scolded a protester by shouting, "sit down and shut up!" Still, Christie argued to NJ Advance Media that the institute is just a logical extension of his record of working across the aisle with Democrats, including Cuomo. "That's what my governorship was really about," he said.

Christie went on to criticize "a lot of Democrat friends who are using a lot of language that is very hot." He definitively stated "no" when asked if this could serve as a springboard into another presidential campaign, although he has previously teased the possibility of running in 2024, asking in February, "Why not?" If he does wind up in another potentially brutal Republican primary, we'll see how long this newfound love of civility lasts. Brendan Morrow

12:05 p.m.

The director of The Hunt is speaking out after a firestorm led to the film's cancellation, making the case that the whole thing was a big misunderstanding.

Craig Zobel, who directed the political satire that Universal Pictures recently pulled from its September release, told Variety on Monday that the intent of his movie "was to poke at both sides of the aisle equally" and not to "enrage and divide."

Universal pulled advertising for The Hunt in the wake of two deadly mass shootings, but further criticism of the film emerged after a report that its plot revolved around liberal elites hunting "deplorables" for sport. Multiple Fox News segments blasted the movie, and President Trump himself weighed in, tweeting about "the movie coming out" that he said was "made in order to inflame and cause chaos." While Trump didn't name the film, it can be assumed he was talking about The Hunt. Not quite taken into account was the fact that the movie's trailer suggested the "deplorables" were the heroes of the film, something Variety reports is clear in an early draft of the script.

Zobel told Variety he does not believe the film "could incite violence" and that it "satirized this moment in our culture — where we jump to assume we know someone's beliefs because of which 'team' we think they're on ... and then start shouting at them." He also criticized "inaccurate assumptions about the content and intent of the movie" but said that he "supported" the studio's decision to pull it once these assumptions "began to take hold." Now, Zobel says he hopes everyone will "reflect on why we are in this moment, where we don’t have any desire to listen to each other."

It remains unclear whether The Hunt could be released at a later date, but Zobel hopes it can be, and producer Jason Blum told Vulture there is "definitely a chance" of it still coming out.

Brendan Morrow

11:06 a.m.

Voters are finding it ever more likely that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a good shot at unseating President Trump if she wins the Democratic nomination, a new Economist/YouGov poll shows.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has been running on the notion that he'd be able to swing middle-of-the-road voters in middle-of-the-road states back to the blue side after their dalliance with the GOP in 2016, making him the candidate with the best "electability" claim. But Warren is gaining on him. A healthy 65 percent of Democratic voters polled still said that Biden would "probably beat Donald Trump" in the general election, while Warren received the second highest mark in that area, with 57 percent.

Sure, those eight percentage points don't make for an insignificant gap, but Warren has vaulted 14 points since a previous poll in June, while Biden's figure has stagnated. And the two actually drew even closer among those who say each candidate would "probably lose" to Trump, with 16 percent of Democratic voters feeling pessimistic about Biden's chances and 18 percent for Warren.

Faiz Shakir, the campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), said that Biden's case "rests on some weak assumptions," anyway. "You have to excite people about where you want to take this country," he said. Bloomberg notes that candidates like Sanders and Warren, for example, are focused more on bringing in new votes from people who sat out the 2016 election because of disenchantment, in contrast to Biden's determination to flip voters. That said, Biden still has more than his fair share of believers.

"We can't take a chance, and Joe Biden is our best chance," Henry Singleton, a New Yorker who watched the major Democratic candidates make their pitch to black voters at the NAACP convention in Detroit last month, told Bloomberg.

The Economist/YouGov poll was conducted between August 10-13 through web-based interviews with 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. The margin of error was 3 percentage points. Tim O'Donnell

10:19 a.m.

One of President Trump's oldest and closest friends is on the outs with the commander-in-chief, Politico reports.

Tom Barrack, a wealthy investor, has been by the president's side since the late 1980s, and that remained the case early on in Trump's tenure in the Oval Office when Barrack served as the chair of Trump's 2017 inauguration fund.

Now, though, the two reportedly no longer speak, current and former White House officials say. The falling out reportedly has something to do with Barrack's role in the inauguration, which is under investigation by prosecutors. The U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn is investigating whether Barrack violated laws requiring lobbyists to register when they work for foreign interests. The prosecutors have placed a particular emphasis on whether the inauguration let foreigners from the Middle East use straw donors to donate to the inauguration.

"The last thing Trump needs is to be closely associated with one more person facing scrutiny and potential ethical issues," said a person who knows Barrack.

However, other sources told Politico that the fracturing of their friendship began before the inauguration fund and is actually a result of something much simpler. A former White House official said that Barrack "is the kind of guy who would tell" Trump "things he didn't want to hear, so Trump stopped talking to him." Another source close to Trump said the president just "got tired" of Barrack, who he felt was trying to involve himself too much in the administration.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Barrack said that the relationship between the two "remains unchanged." But whatever the case may be, Politico notes the old pals could rekindle their friendship at any moment, as the president as been known to "turn on friends and allies, only to bring them back into the fold months or years later." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

9:33 a.m.

The feud between President Trump and his former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, isn't remotely slowing down.

Trump on Monday lashed out at Scaramucci, who served as White House director of communications for less than two weeks, after Scaramucci's latest morning show interview in which he blasted the president and again said Republicans should replace him on the 2020 ticket. Trump described Scaramucci's White House tenure as "11 days of gross incompetence," also alleging he "abused staff," bringing up his divorce, calling him a "mental wreck," and lobbing at him what is, in the president's world, the worst insult imaginable: that he was "bad on TV."

This is just the latest instance of Trump going after a former administration official he hired as grossly incompetent, having previously declared former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "totally ill prepared and ill equipped" for the job.

Trump's tweets came after Scaramucci's latest morning show interview on CNN, during which he said Trump is "off his rocker" and is destroying "the social fabric of the United States," while claiming that "everyone inside" the White House knows this, Mediaite reports. Scaramucci continues to predict Trump will drop out of the 2020 race by next March. Brendan Morrow

8:59 a.m.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is now the most electrifying married man in all of entertainment.

Johnson on Monday morning revealed that he and his longtime girlfriend, Lauren Hashian, were married in Hawaii over the weekend. The Hobbs & Shaw star posted some beautiful photos from the Sunday ceremony on his Instagram page, writing, "Pōmaika'i (blessed)." Naturally, Kevin Hart was the top comment.

Johnson and Hashian, a singer-songwriter, have been together since 2007 after meeting the year prior while Johnson was making his movie The Game Plan, People reports. They have two daughters together: 3-year-old Jasmine and 1-year-old Tiana. Johnson also has an 18-year-old daughter from his previous marriage, CNN notes. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight last year, Johnson said that even before their wedding, "I just refer to her as my wife all the time."

The millions (and millions) of The Rock's fans are now wishing congratulations to the happy couple, although there's no word on whether Johnson provided catering at a wedding reception and if attendees, in fact, got to smell what The Rock was cooking. Brendan Morrow

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