August 3, 2016

Will Smith does not want to enter politics — or not entirely — but he has discussed with President Obama playing Obama in a movie, he told Stephen Colbert on Tuesday's Late Show. "What do you think of race relations now, after eight years of the Obama presidency?" Colbert asked. "I always look at these things in terms of a marriage," Smith said, specifically mentioning his hard work to build a successful relationship with wife Jada Pinkett Smith. "So when I think about race relations in this country now, there's a thing that happens before things are cleaned up. There is a darkness before the dawn that is always difficult."

Racial tension is "clearly not worse than it was in the '60s, you know, and it's certainly not as bad as it was in the 1860s," Smith noted. "We are talking about race in this country more clearly and openly than we have almost ever in the history of this country. It's on the table." When Colbert likened racial relations to a doctor draining an infected wound, Smith agreed. "Racism is not getting worse, it's getting filmed," he said. "I really think this darkness, as bad as it is and as difficult as it is, the problems are on the table. I view that in the same way as Jada and I had to work though things in our marriage: When the truth comes out, when it gets on the table, when you have to confront what's real, it sucks." But now that the problem is "on the table," Smith said, "I think there's an opportunity, more than ever, for a level of understanding that we've never had before." Watch below. Peter Weber

9:43 a.m.

Just when she thought she was out...

Chrissy Teigen returned to Twitter on Friday weeks after generating headlines for deleting her account, as the exit apparently wasn't all she expected it might be.

"Turns out it feels TERRIBLE to silence yourself and also no longer enjoy belly chuckles randomly throughout the day and also lose like 2000 friends at once," she wrote.

Teigen, who had nearly 14 million followers when she deleted her Twitter account in March, had previously explained she was leaving because the platform "no longer serves me as positively as it serves me negatively." She clarified this was "absolutely NOT Twitter's fault" and also wasn't the result of being bullied by trolls, but she said she was struggling to "come to terms with the fact some people aren't gonna like me."

A few weeks later, Teigen's account was back online on Friday, and she's apparently got a lot of catching up to do, joking she's spent "weeks just saying tweets to shampoo bottles." Teigen added that in returning to Twitter, she's choosing to "take the bad with the good," which fans can perhaps see as a more positive lesson out of this whole saga than the idea that there's truly no escape from Twitter for anyone. Brendan Morrow

8:32 a.m.

One of the Louisville police officers who shot Breonna Taylor is writing a book, but Simon & Schuster is now backing away from plans to be involved.

The publisher announced it has "decided not be involved in the distribution of" a book written by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of the officers involved in the raid that Breonna Taylor was killed in last year, The New York Times and CNN report.

Officers in March 2020 were executing a no-knock warrant at Taylor's apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, and Mattingly was shot by Taylor's boyfriend, who says he thought they were intruders and was firing a warning shot. Taylor was killed after the officers returned fire. According to the Times, Mattingly "fired at least one of the six shots that hit Ms. Taylor, but not the lethal bullet."

It had previously been reported by the Louisville Courier Journal that Post Hill Press would publish Mattingly's book, The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy. But after facing criticism, Simon & Schuster said it only "learned of plans by distribution client Post Hill Press to publish a book by Jonathan Mattingly" on Thursday as this report emerged and will no longer be involved.

Prior to Simon & Schuster's announcement, a spokesperson for Post Hill Press told the Times it was standing by its decision to publish the book, as "in the case of Sergeant Mattingly, the mainstream media narrative has been entirely one-sided related to this story and we feel that he deserves to have his account of the tragic events heard publicly." Mattingly previously sued Taylor's boyfriend for assault and battery last year. Brendan Morrow

7:45 a.m.

You may soon need a license to drive and vote in Texas but not carry a handgun in public.

After years of failed attempts by gun advocates, the Texas House on Thursday gave initial approval to a bill that would drop the state's requirement that most handgun owners obtain a $40 license to carry their firearm in public, concealed or openly. Currently, Texans 21 and over with no criminal record can get a license to carry a handgun if they complete a training requirement, don't have a drug addiction, and can "exercise sound judgment with respect the proper use and storage of a handgun," the Austin American-Statesman explains.

The measure would drop the license requirement, though federal background checks would remain in place for most handgun purchases, with exceptions for private and gun show sales. It passed 84-56, mainly along party lines; five Democrats voted in favor, one Republican voted against. The legislation needs another vote in the House, and it faces an uncertain future in the state Senate.

The El Paso delegation led the unsuccessful opposition to the bill, HR 1927. After a gunman murdered 23 people at a Walmart in 2019, followed weeks later by the mass shooting of seven people in Midland Odessa, "there were roundtable discussions and stakeholder meetings and a lot of promises — and I was hopeful, members, even knowing the political realities, I was hopeful," said state Rep. Joe Moody (D). "I'm so tired of doing nothing," he added. "I'm so tired of catering to a very small number of very loud people whose thinking about guns is wrapped up in unfounded fears and bizarre conspiracy theories."

Permitless carry has the support of the Texas Republican Party and the National Rifle Association. It is opposed by law enforcement groups, firearms trainers, and groups of clergy and veterans. At a break in the five-hour debate, a group of gun control advocates prayed and sang "Amazing Grace" in the gallery, before being escorted out by law enforcement. Peter Weber

6:12 a.m.

One in five Americans still say they won't get the COVID-19 vaccine, despite the willingness by Americans to put all manner of junk in their bodies and eagerness to take anything offered freely, Jimmy Kimmel sighed on Thursday's Kimmel Live. Dr. Anthony Fauci "must be beating his head against the wall. Dr. Fauci appeared today before a congressional subcommittee on COVID-19 and was forced to endure the relentless stupidity of a shaved ape from Ohio named Jim Jordan," who screamed that Americans' liberties have been assaulted by public health measures. "Yeah, you know who else was assaulted? Those wrestlers when you were their coach at Ohio State," Kimmel said. "I guess that you didn't notice."

"Meanwhile, there are new details in the sordid saga of future former Florida congressman Matt Gaetz," Kimmel said. "Yesterday we learned that Gaetz was involved in more wild house parties than Kid 'n Play in the '90s. Reportedly, there were drugs and sex at these parties, where women were given gifts and money in exchange for their 'participation,' much of it paid through Venmo."

Accused ringleader Joel Greenberg made at least 150 payments to young women, including at least 16 to a future Gaetz girlfriend, Kimmel said, "and of course we know about all of this because stupid Joel Greenberg made his Venmo transactions public, as did Matt Gaetz — they didn't check the privacy box. What's the opposite of a criminal mastermind? "

"Gaetz faces an intensifying investigation in which authorities seized his phone last winter," Seth Meyers said at Late Night, and "I'm no lawyer, but it can't be good when they seize your phone. No one's happy to have their phone seized," even if it's just your wife, he joked. "Chances are pretty high that if you've broken the law, there's evidence of it on your phone, especially since Gaetz was reportedly using Cash App and Venmo to make payments to his indicted buddy."

We're also learning more about those parties Gaetz, Greenberg, and their GOP friends would allegedly hold, Meyers said. "You know, my grandmother used to say nothing good ever happens after midnight, and I'd say the same is true about anything that happens at a party in a gated community in suburban Orlando where they make you give up your phone." Peter Weber

4:28 a.m.

Joel Greenberg, 36, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), 38, became friends soon after Greenberg was elected Seminole County tax collector and Gaetz won a seat in Congress in 2016. Both men were "brash politicians who hailed from families of considerable wealth and who themselves rose to power quickly," and "they also enjoyed parties and the company of women," The Washington Post reports, citing people who know both Gaetz and Greenberg. That latter interest — woman and parties — is also why both men are under federal investigation.

Before the feds got involved in late 2019 or early 2020, Greenberg had already been on the radar of local law enforcement — for, among other things, allegedly misusing public funds, handing lucrative and unnecessary contracts and state jobs to friends and allies, and impersonating a police officer, pulling over a woman for speeding using a badge and lights on his private vehicle.

But local police did not start investigating Greenberg until, according the a federal indictment, he tried to derail a GOP primary challenger, prep school music teacher Brian Beute, by sending his school a fraudulent note claiming Beute had carried on an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student. Beute roped in a lawyer acquaintance, David Bear, who convinced the sheriff's office that whoever was behind the smear campaign had committed a crime. Bear also successfully encouraged the sheriff's office to seek help from the feds, the Post reports.

"When authorities arrested Greenberg and sifted through his electronic records and devices — according to documents and people involved in the case — they discovered a medley of other alleged wrongdoing, leading them to open an investigation of possible sex trafficking involving a far more high-profile Florida Republican," Gaetz, the Post reports. Beute thought about dropping the matter after local investigators cleared him of having sex with a student, but "he decided not to," Bear told the Post. "All of these other things mushroomed out of that one decision for him to stand tall."

Greenberg, facing 33 counts including sex trafficking of a child, is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors to earn some leniency. Gaetz denies the alleged focus of his investigation — paying for sex and having sex with a minor across state lines — and has not been charged or formally accused of wrongdoing. Read more about how the case came together at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

3:33 a.m.

Indianapolis police said early Friday that eight people have been confirmed dead after a mass shooting at a FedEx facility on the grounds of the Indianapolis International Airport late Thursday. Along with the eight people shot dead, at least four people have been hospitalized, one of them with critical injuries, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Genae Cook told reporters. Two other people were treated at the scene. Police said the gunman shot and killed himself after officers arrived at the FedEx facility just after 11 p.m. Thursday night.

"We are aware of the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility near the Indianapolis airport," FedEx said in a statement early Friday. "Safety is our top priority, and our thoughts are with all those who are affected. We are working to gather more information and are cooperating with investigating authorities." Peter Weber

2:36 a.m.

President Biden halted construction of his predecessor's U.S.-Mexico border wall right after taking office, giving his administration time to study the contracts the Trump administration had signed and exploring ways to dispatch them. But the federal review was supposed to end March 20, and while border wall construction is still on ice, the legal cases to seize land for the wall are continuing, Politico reports. That's fueling concerns that wall construction could resume, despite Biden's pledge to stop the project.

The Justice Department still has about 140 eminent domain cases active along the Texas border, the Texas Civil Rights Project says. And at least 114 of those cases have progressed since Biden's 60-day study period ended on March 21, according to the group, which represents a handful of families fighting to keep their land, including the Cavazos family. Earlier this week, the U.S. government won the title to six acres of the Cavazos family's 77-acre ranch, Politico reports. The family said Biden broke his promise to end land seizures and they are asking the government to return the title to their land.

Customs and Border Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers "have suspended surveys, negotiations with landowners, and similar real estate acquisition activities, in accordance with the president's proclamation," a CBP spokesperson told Politico. But CBP and the White House referred questions about the eminent domain cases to the Justice Department, which said it has sought to delay the cases rather than end them, pending completion of Biden's review. The White House did not explain why the review has blown past its deadline.

"They can have all the excuses they want but it's real dicey to look at what they're doing right now," a person who consults with the White House on immigration policy and has grown frustrated tells Politico. "It's a lot of stuff Trump was doing." Peter Weber

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