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October 31, 2016

A viral Facebook campaign encouraging users to check in to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in order to confuse or throw off the Morton County Sheriff Department's alleged attempts to geotarget Dakota Access Pipeline protesters is likely nothing more than a hoax, Snopes reports:

We contacted the department about the rumor, and an officer explained not only that they were not using Facebook check-ins as a gauge of anything, but that the metric presented no intelligence value to them. The rumor suggested that protesters cited Facebook check-ins as a manner in which police could target them, but check-ins were voluntary — and if police were using geolocation tools based on mobile devices, remote check-ins would not confuse or overwhelm them.

We also contacted Sacred Stone Camp to determine whether they were the source of the social media plea. A representative clarified the rumor, telling us that police do sift through social media for "incriminating material" (not whether or not they were at the site, however) and to generally monitor the protests. They told us that the group appreciated the gesture of solidarity, but that the message did not originate with their camp. [Snopes]

The Morton County Sheriff's Department posted a similar statement Monday afternoon:

Alternative forms of supporting the pipeline protests exist, such as donating to Sacred Stone's fund for paying legal defense fees here, or by sending physical donations to the Sioux Tribe by following directions here. Jeva Lange

4:44a.m.

"President Trump has been spinning in a Tasmanian Devil-style rage this week," Jimmy Kimmel said on Thursday's Kimmel Live. "As rumors of turmoil and tumult continue to swirl, Trump took to Twitter to lash out at Special Counsel Robert Mueller," his "witch hunt," and his staff. "He always forgets we had real witch hunts in American history, in which they killed witches, but this is the biggest witch hunt, and Bob Mueller is moving on you like a witch," Kimmel said. Still, "what Donald Trump should be worried about" isn't Mueller, but Russian President Vladimir Putin's warm exchange with Vice President Mike Pence at an Asia-Pacific summit on Thursday. He narrated the video.

The Late Show kicked off with a different Trump conspiracy theory, showing a fake commercial to mock Trump's "nuts" idea that you need to voter ID card to buy cereal.

"With Trump in such a bad mood, no one is safe," not even Fox News host Sean Hannity, Stephen Colbert said in his monologue. "Apparently, Trump's close relationship with Hannity hasn't stopped the president from mocking the Fox News star behind his back for being such a suck-up. Does Hannity really suck up that much?" Colbert asked. It was a rhetorical question, but he played some clips anyway. Trump is reportedly so critical of Hannity he has been known to imitate his voice and mannerisms. "I would love to see Trump's impressions," Colbert said, trying out a few. The Nixon one got a little strange.

"This news about Hannity has sent shockwaves through our in-house, pro-Trump news team, Real News Tonight, who now don't know how to talk about the president," Colbert said. You can watch Jim Anchorton and Jill Newslady struggle that out below. Peter Weber

3:58a.m.

Right after Act I of Wednesday night's performance of Fiddler on the Roof at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theater, the intermission was interrupted by a shout from the balcony: "Heil Hitler, Heil Trump!" Late Thursday, Baltimore police identified the shouter as Anthony Derlunas II, a 58-year-old man who said he had been "drinking heavily throughout the night" and was inspired to yell pro-Nazi slogans during the popular musical because the end of Act I — where Russians storm a Jewish wedding, staging a pogrom against the village's Jewish residents — reminded him of his hatred of President Trump.

Derlunas, the police said, blamed the anger his outburst caused and his rapid expulsion and lifetime ban from the Hippodrome on Trump supporters in the theater. Other theatergoers told The New York Times they assumed the shouting of "Heil Hitler" was linked to the rise in U.S. anti-Semitism and feared the shouter also had a gun. "I was waiting to hear a gunshot, frankly," sportswriter Rich Scherr told the Times. "I'm like shrinking in my seat thinking, 'Oh my God, does this guy have a gun?'" added Beth Pendergast, who brought her 23-year-old daughter to the show.

Derlunas will not face any charges, said Matthew Jablow, a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department. "As reprehensible as the man's words were, they are considered protected free speech because nobody was directly threatened." A few weeks earlier, a gunman murdered 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Coincidentally, this touring production of Fiddler on the Roof is scheduled to head to Pittsburgh after its Baltimore run ends Nov. 18. Peter Weber

3:10a.m.

As President Trump's "West Wing careens through one of the most turbulent weeks of his presidency, White House officials are struggling to understand the source of the fury fueling the president's eruptions," Vanity Fair reported Wednesday, quoting a former West Wing staffer: "This is a level of insanity I've never seen before." But Trump's "oddly detailed condemnation" of Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Twitter Thursday bolsters the speculation that Trump's mood is tied to the Russia investigation, Politico reports.

"Half a dozen people in contact with the White House and other Trump officials say a deep anxiety has started to set in that Mueller is about to pounce after his self-imposed quiet period, and that any number of Trump's allies and family members may soon be staring down the barrel of an indictment," Politico says. Trump and his lawyers have been meeting this week to answer Mueller's questions about Russia's Trump-friendly interference in the 2016 election. But Trump's "unusually specific" accusations against Mueller suggest the cause of his anxiety is based on specific knowledge, Natasha Bertrand reports at The Atlantic.

Trump's angry tweets "could just be another rant," former Manhattan federal prosecutor Elie Honig tells Bertrand. But Trump allies may also have informed Trump that Mueller's prosecutors are getting impatient with a less-than-forthcoming witness. "My hunch is that prosecutors had some sort of 'Time to get real' conversation with someone implicated in the investigation, which was then relayed to Trump by defense attorneys," Honig said. Fellow former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman agreed, saying he believes "indictments are coming," maybe Friday.

"You can see it in Trump's body language all week long, there's something troubling him," a senior Republican official in touch with the White House speculates to Politico. "It led me to believe the walls are closing in and they've been notified by counsel of some actions about to happen. Folks are preparing for the worst." Peter Weber

1:34a.m.

"You have to be very careful when you're a first lady," Jimmy Kimmel said to former first lady Michelle Obama on Thursday's Kimmel Live. "But you're not first lady anymore. And as far as I'm concerned, you can really cut loose and say anything now, right?" Obama said yes, tentatively. "I've written some things down," Kimmel said, and "if you're game for this, maybe here's some things you could say now you are..." "So you want me to just look at those cards and just read what you said?" a skeptical Obama asked. "Don't even look at them, just read what I wrote," Kimmel said. And she did, gamely.

After the first one — "I've never eaten a vegetable" — Obama laughed and commented her way through the rest of Kimmel's cards. The last one's a little spicy. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:10a.m.

President Trump appears to be "pretty grumpy" these days, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "Reports are he's moping around the White House," apparently "pissed — at damn near everyone." Wow, Colbert said, "being president has really worn him down. Remember Inauguration Day, when he was so light-hearted and filled with joy?" (Colbert didn't either.) Another former Trump staffer said there's "a level of insanity I've never seen before" at the White House," and "keep in mind, this White House has seen Kanye," he noted.

Colbert listed some real and speculative reasons Trump is so upset, including the possibility son Don Jr. will be indicted and the lack of a grand parade in Paris. But "Trump's not just moping around the White House, he's also moping around the Twitter," he said, reading Trump's tweeted tirade against Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Colbert suggested Trump was "transparently projecting his insecurities onto Robert Mueller," and demonstrated what that might look like.

At Late Night, Seth Meyers focused on Trump's "post-election funk as the blue wave that put Democrats in charge of the House keeps getting bigger." He made special note of how some of the House Democrats Trump has mocked for two years will soon have power to investigate his government and personal finances. "Damn," he said, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) "can subpoena his tax returns, his bank records — hell, she can subpoena the results of his IQ test."

"Trump knows that he'll be held accountable for his actions for the first time in two years, and as a result he's panicking," Meyers said. Watch that and his delightful cue-card incident below. Peter Weber

12:10a.m.

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you. In a recently unsealed court filing, a U.S. federal prosecutor in Virginia inadvertently disclosed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged with an undisclosed crime, The Washington Post reported Thursday night. Hours earlier, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. prosecutors are increasingly confident about indicting Assange and prosecuting him in U.S. court.

Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador, and he's been living in the country's London embassy since 2012. He has long maintained that leaving the embassy would lead to his arrest and attempted extradition to the U.S. The U.S. government has never said if it has sealed charges against Assange, but former President Barack Obama's Justice Department reportedly decided against pursuing charges on the ground that WikiLeaks is too similar to a news organization.

In the Aug. 22 filing, unsealed in late September and noticed Thursday by a sharp-eyed counterterrorism expert, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer urged a judge to keep charges against a sex trafficking and terrorism suspect, Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, under seal because "due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged." The charges "need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested," Dwyer added later.

It isn't clear what charges have evidently been filed against Assange. "The court filing was made in error," said Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia. "That was not the intended name for this filing." Assange's lawyer Barry Pollack said he has "no idea if he has actually been charge or for what," but "the only thing more irresponsible than charging a person for publishing truthful information would be to put in a public filing information that clearly was not intended for the public and without any notice to Mr. Assange." Peter Weber

12:06a.m.

On the fifth anniversary of Miles Scott, a.k.a. Batkid, saving San Francisco from the Penguin and the Riddler, the Make-a-Wish Foundation gave a wonderful update: Scott is now cancer free.

Scott was 5 years old and battling leukemia when Make-a-Wish teamed up with the San Francisco mayor's office, police and fire departments, and the Giants to turn the city into Gotham, just for him. After he spent the day getting rid of bad guys and rescuing Giants mascot Lou Seal, he received a key to the city, and the San Francisco Chronicle published the Gotham City Chronicle, his face on the cover along with the headline "Batkid Saves City."

On Thursday, Make-a-Wish said Scott is "a happy, healthy fifth grader," and has been in remission since 2013. He plays baseball in Little League, helps on his family farm, and loves science and robotics. When wishes are granted, the foundation said, they have "proven physical and emotional benefits and can produce better health outcomes." Catherine Garcia

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