September 8, 2016

Sean Hannity wasn't always a fan of Julian Assange, but the Fox News personality has warmed up to Assange now that the WikiLeaks editor is trashing the mainstream media and promising to release damaging information on Hillary Clinton. "I do hope you get free one day and wish you the best," Hannity said in the first part of his interview with Assange on Tuesday night. On Wednesday night, Hannity played the second half of the interview, and aside from chiding Assange for suggesting that Clinton will beat Donald Trump — "I don't think anyone can accurately predict right now which way this election is going to go" — Hannity had only nice things to say.

"I give you more credit that those in the liberal press," Hannity said, echoing Assange's claims that The New York Times and Politico have a political bias against covering WikiLeaks dumps on Democrats. Then he started pressing Assange about the promised "significant" information WikiLeaks will release on Clinton before the November election. "Can you give us any insight on that information?" he asked. "Do you think it will have a dramatic effect on the electoral results?" "I do think the information that we're working on — around the clock — is significant," Assange said. "It's up to people to look at it and run with it. Now, I'm sure that Fox News will run with some of that."

Hannity tried again: "If you had to maybe grade it on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most significant, how significant is it?" "Well, there's not just one type of piece of information," Assange explained. "We have thousands and thousands of records. So each hundreds of records gives you a story, so you have to kind of understand each story, and that is a lot of work, to format it, to verify it, to put it in particular batches to be released." Then he asked for donations.

"Do you have any information, any batches if you will, on Donald Trump?" Hannity asked. "We have information which touches on the Republican Party's campaign," Assange said. "We're assessing that information, we will publish it of course. But, you know, Donald Trump is — he makes very controversial statements, he doesn't have a history of being in government." "He doesn't use email, you know that, right?" Hannity said, grinning. "Donald Trump does not use email, personally." "Probably a wise choice," Assange said, laughing.

When Hannity asked about privacy rights, Assange shrugged: "Well, look, we publish information from political parties and governments," he said. "We're not interested in information from private individuals unless they're billionaires or trying to manipulate or drive the political system in some way." "Like, somebody like George Soros would be on your radar?" Hannity asked. Assange assured him that WikiLeaks will be republishing information on Soros. You can watch the exchange below. Peter Weber

3:48 p.m.

Corey Lewandowski didn't even wait until the end of his congressional testimony Tuesday before launching a website for his potential 2020 Senate bid.

President Trump's former campaign manager appeared before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday for its first official impeachment hearing, mostly declining to answers Democrats' questions. During a break at one point, Lewandowski tweeted a link to a brand new website promoting the campaign for Senate he has been publicly mulling. Although Lewandowski asks his followers to "sign up now," the website he links to highlights no clear place to do so, which sort of defeats the purpose of the plug.

On the website right now is just a picture of Trump and Lewandowski with Trump's quote that Lewandowski "would be fantastic" in the Senate, a quote Trump gave in an interview last month, although the president has not actually officially offered an endorsement. Lewandowski would be running in New Hampshire against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). Along with the website, the Super PAC Stand with Corey has also been filed with the Federal Election Commission.

As the hearing resumed, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) slammed Lewandowski by reminding him that "this is not a Republican primary campaign" but a congressional hearing and he should "act like you know the difference." Still, later in the hearing, Lewandowski dropped a reference to "maybe someday" being in "the upper chamber" of Congress. Brendan Morrow

3:33 p.m.

Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez was arrested in Pittsburgh on felony charges of pornography and soliciting, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Tuesday.

The FDLE's investigation reportedly began in August after the department obtained information that Vazquez allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl in Lee County, Florida, and that the pitcher continued the relationship by texting with the minor, who is now 15-years-old.

The police affidavit, obtained by ESPN, says the girl's mother found texts, photographs, and a graphic video sent by Vazquez on her daughter's phone.

Vasquez has been placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball, although ESPN reports that the league will not launch an immediate investigation into the matter because it plans to use the police's findings in pursuing discipline for Vazquez. Frank Coonelly, the Pirates' president, said the franchise is taking the matter "extremely seriously," but no one involved in the organization can comment any further since it's an ongoing legal proceeding.

The news comes at the end of what turned out to be a nightmare season for the Pirates, who have been dealing with numerous locker issues, including a fight between Vazquez and fellow reliever Kyle Crick, which, in light of the severity of Vazquez's charges, now seems trivial. Read more at ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

2:57 p.m.

Edward Snowden's book, Permanent Record, was only released Tuesday, but it's already causing trouble for the author.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit the same day against Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked classified information from the NSA in 2013. The lawsuit is centered on Snowden publishing the memoir without approval, which the Justice Department is alleging violates non-disclosure agreements Snowden signed with the government.

The point of the lawsuit, however, is not to prevent the the publication or the distribution of the book; the Justice Department just wants to make sure Snowden doesn't get paid for it. Therefore, the department is seeking the proceeds Snowden earns from the book's sales. "Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit," G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement. "This lawsuit will ensure that Edward Snowden receives no monetary benefits from breaching the trust placed in him."

Permanent Record reportedly reveals new details about Snowden's decision to steal files from the NSA's collection of phone and internet metadata and release them to journalists. Read more at The Washington Post and NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

2:35 p.m.

Corey Lewandowski came to Capitol Hill Tuesday to passionately defend President Trump while dodging congressional Democrats' questions, and Trump appears to be loving it.

Trump's former campaign manager testified Tuesday as part of the House Judiciary Committee's first official impeachment hearing, in his opening statement nostalgically recalling the president's decision to "ride down the golden escalator" in 2015. Lewandowski said it was an "honor and a privilege" to be a part of Trump's "historic campaign," even getting in a dig at Hillary Clinton with a reference to deleted emails and claiming there has been "harassment of this president from the day he won the election."

As the hearing proceeded, Lewandowski frustrated Democrats like Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) by dodging basic questions, such as whether he met with Trump in the White House in June 2017, by asking for specific citations and quotes from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. The White House had directed Lewandowski to not provide information outside of the Mueller report, although Lewandowski was never actually a White House employee. At one point, Lewandowski asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) to repeat a question because "I didn't hear it. Just a rant."

Much of what Lewandowski said sure seemed to be directed at Trump himself, who was indeed watching and tweeted his approval for the "beautiful" opening statement, which he subsequently posted a video of. Lewandowski is currently mulling a 2020 Senate run, which he used a pre-hearing tweet to plug Tuesday morning. Trump previously expressed his support for the potential campaign, saying Lewandowski is "terrific on television." Brendan Morrow

1:50 p.m.

Bing Dwen Dwen is here, and he's surprisingly not frozen to death.

On Tuesday, Beijing unveiled its mascot for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Bing Dwen Dwen is a uncharacteristically round panda who, despite being encased in a transparent ice suit, can somehow move well enough to be expert at every winter Olympic sport out there.

Bing Dwen Dwen comes with a superhero-esque backstory, told through a wordless animated video. After plunging through a mysterious glowing orb that came from space, Bing Dwen Dwen emerges in his ice suit with the ability to fly, soars through some winter Olympic events, and shoots off into the galaxy to deliver what's presumably world peace to an astronaut.

Bing Dwen Dwen's introduction comes as the objectively boring mascots Miraitowa and Someity gear up for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Bing Dwen Dwen is undoubtedly an improvement, but no matter how bright his eyes sparkle, he only wishes he could be as adorable as PyeongChang 2018's mascot Soohorang. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:48 p.m.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio could really use one of those "special moments" in his 2020 campaign right about now.

The Democratic presidential candidate, who recently insisted that "an hour from now, one of those special moments could happen" that turns his entire campaign around, in a new Siena College poll released Tuesday earned zero percent support in New York City. He also did not crack 1 percent support across New York state in the poll, in which former Vice President Joe Biden leads.

This poll found de Blasio has a 58 percent unfavorable rating in New York City compared to 33 percent who say they have a favorable view of him.

De Blasio hasn't been faring much better nationally, with most polls showing him at either 0 percent or 1 percent. Qualifying for the next Democratic presidential debate requires a candidate to reach 2 percent in four qualifying polls, and so the New York City mayor is on pace to miss two debates in a row. Should that happen, de Blasio indicated earlier this month it would be "tough to conceive" of continuing the race.

Siena College's poll was conducted by speaking to 798 registered voters, including 359 registered Democrats, in New York state from Sept. 8 to Sept. 12. The margin of error among the sample of registered Democrats is 6.1 percentage points. Read the full results at Siena College. Brendan Morrow

1:29 p.m.

The U.S. might soon have a new old friend, Bloomberg reports.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk on Tuesday, and now the U.S. reportedly plans to return an ambassador to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, for the first time in 11 years, and vice versa; Hale called it a "historic" first step in restoring bilateral ties. The freeze in diplomatic relations between the countries began in 2008 because the U.S. made allegations of human-rights abuses by the Belarusian government, which has been led by Lukashenko, who has been called the "last dictator in Europe," for the last 25 years.

Hale said Lukashenko has taken "concrete steps" toward improving the relationship between Washington and Minsk, though it's unclear what those were. While there's no indication the disagreement over human-rights issues was resolved, Washington is reportedly keen on keeping Russia at bay in Eastern Europe. As it stands, Moscow is Lukashenko's "main ally and patron," Bloomberg reports, but Minsk has reportedly been reluctant to get much closer with Russia, which has its eyes on the formation of a "union state" with Belarus. So, perhaps, the renewed relationship is meant to serve as a buffer for Russian influence not just on Belarus, but the region as a whole.

Lukashenko also reportedly told Hale that as long as it doesn't undermine Belarus' security, he would not allow the deployment of short- or medium-range missiles in the country, which Moscow has hinted at in the past. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

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