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March 14, 2018

The family of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was killed in 2016, has filed a lawsuit against Fox News, investigative reporter Malia Zimmerman, and commentator Ed Butowsky over a story Rich's family says contained "false and fabricated facts."

Rich was killed in Washington, D.C., in July 2016, and police told the Rich family it's possible robbery was a factor; his murder remains unsolved. At the time, the 27-year-old was a voter-expansion data director with the DNC. In a lawsuit obtained by ABC News, Rich's family says a Fox News article posted on May 16, 2017, contained incorrect information that sparked conspiracy theories falsely linking Rich's murder to WikiLeaks' release of 20,000 hacked DNC emails. Fox News retracted the story later that month.

The suit claims that Zimmerman and Butowsky contacted Rich's parents, Joel and Mary Rich, under false pretenses and they "aided and abetted the intentional infliction of emotional distress" caused by the "sham story." In a statement, Joel and Mary Rich said that "no parent should ever have to live through what we have been forced to endure. The pain and anguish that comes from seeing your murdered son's life and legacy treated as a mere political football is beyond comprehension." Butowsky told ABC News the lawsuit is "one of the dumbest" he's ever seen. Catherine Garcia

9:25 a.m.

Working for Tesla CEO Elon Musk sounds like a stressful and bizarre experience, as you might gauge from his erratic Twitter feed.

Wired on Thursday published a detailed account of what it was like to work at Tesla as the company ramped up production of the Model 3, speaking with dozens of current and former employees. What they describe is a ridiculously demanding work environment in which everyone lives in fear that they will be suddenly humiliated or fired by Musk at any given time.

For instance, one employee said that literally the first time he ever encountered Musk, Musk called him a "f---ing idiot" and fired him in an encounter that "lasted less than a minute." This kind of behavior was so common that one manager said they referred to it as "Elon's rage firings," and during meetings, he was apparently known to suddenly demote employees on the spot in addition to "bullying those who had failed to perform."

"The threat of firing became a drumbeat," Wired writes. One executive said that "every day you expected to be fired" and "there was this constant feeling of dread." According to the article, if anyone questions Musk, they can expect to be immediately let go, reassigned, or asked not to attend meetings anymore.

Musk's obsession with firing people got to the point that he would reportedly come in and say, "I've got to fire someone today," and other executives would have to try to talk him out of it. One former executive summed things up by saying, "Everyone in Tesla is in an abusive relationship with Elon." Tesla in multiple statements disputed the article's characterization of Musk, calling some anecdotes "overly dramatized." Read the full piece at Wired. Brendan Morrow

8:04 a.m.

First lady Melania Trump is once again speaking out against the media, this time slamming some journalists and authors as being mere "opportunists."

Trump sat down with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Wednesday and was asked about the hardest part of being first lady. She pointed to what she called "the opportunists who are using my name or my family name to advance themselves." This, she explained, includes comedians, journalists, performers, and authors, although she did not name names.

Trump went on to say that this "doesn't hurt" but that it bothers her because they are "writing the history, and it's not correct." She kept up her media critique, saying the press likes to "focus on the gossip" when she'd like them to "focus on the substance and what we do, not just about nonsense."

The first lady has frequently offered criticism of the way she's covered in the press during her sporadic media interviews, telling ABC News in October that she specifically wore her now infamous "I really don't care, do you?" jacket as a statement to the media because she wishes they "would focus on what I do and on my initiatives than what I wear." She also said in that interview that she is the "most bullied person in the world." Watch Trump's interview with Hannity below. Brendan Morrow

7:10 a.m.

On Thursday, Apple announced that it is building a new $1 billion campus in Austin, its third in the Texas capital. The new 133-acre campus will start with 5,000 employees and have the capacity for 15,000 employees. Austin's current Apple workforce of about 6,200 employees already makes it Apple's second-largest center of employment, after the company's Cupertino headquarters. "With the planned expansion," Axios notes, "Apple is on track to be Austin's largest private employer." The new campus will have jobs in engineering, research and development, sales, finance, customer support, and operations.

Apple also announced plans to set up new offices in Seattle, San Diego, and Culver City, a part of greater Los Angeles famous for its movie and TV studios. Within the next few years, as it works to fulfill its promise to create 20,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2023, the company is also expanding its operations in New York, Pittsburgh, Portland, Boston, and Boulder, Colorado. Peter Weber

6:28 a.m.

Other than former Major League slugger Jose Canseco, one of the few people to publicly say he's interested in serving as President Trump's next chief of staff was Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. On Wednesday, Trump told Meadows he's out of the running. "The president told him we need him in Congress, so he can continue the great work he is doing there," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

There's mixed reporting on how seriously Trump considered Meadows as Chief of Staff John Kelly's successor. As of Tuesday night, Politico reports, former senior administration officials and outside conservatives were saying "there seemed to be a 50 percent chance he would get the job." But "others in Trump's circle" told The Washington Post that "this week's boomlet around Meadows was overstated and that he was never close to being offered the job."

Meadows had been asking Trump's allies about what legal and political challenges being Trump's chief of staff would entail, four people told the Post. But "conscious of the fallout from another candidate saying thanks but no thanks, the White House made sure to stress that it was Trump who told Meadows that he wanted him to remain in Congress," Politico reports.

Trump says he's considering about 10 candidates, and some of the people being named as live candidates include former Trump campaign deputy chairman David Bossie, former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. "Trump told advisers on Tuesday that he liked the guessing game surrounding the position, and the number of names out there showed that people were interested in the position and in joining his administration," the Post reports. Below, you can watch former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) take himself out of the running live on CNN Tuesday night. Peter Weber

5:03 a.m.

President Trump "is still searching for a new chief of staff," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "Like any job working for Trump it comes with dental, paid sick leave, and free government housing for five to 10 years." The White House said Tuesday that current Chief of Staff John Kelly will stay on through "at least Jan. 2" to ensure "a very peaceful and pragmatic transition." Colbert translated: "So they fired Kelly, can't find anybody else, make him stay to train his successor. It's like saying to your girlfriend, 'Hey, I'm breaking up with you, but I'm going to need you to stay on until at least prom to ensure a peaceful and pragmatic transition to Becky over there.'"

The president keeps getting turned down, like "a reverse Apprentice," but "Trump says he's flooded with résumés for the chief of staff job" and is considering 10-12 contenders, Colbert noted. One reason filling the job is so hard is that the candidate apparently has to meet the approval of Jared and Ivanka, "so congratulations to new Chief of Staff Mohammed bin Salman," he deadpanned. Trump told Reuters his chief of staff criteria, and Colbert suggested "he's really looking for his soul mate, him." He tried to decipher a cryptic quote from Trump about Hillary Clinton and money.

Trump also told Reuters that he's not worried about impeachment because "I think the people would revolt if that happened." Colbert found that plausible. "Yes, it's true: The people would take to the streets, vandalizing champagne bottles, grinning with rage, blocking traffic with their protest dancing. It would be absolute pandemonium." He demonstrated. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:06 a.m.

A court in Melbourne, Australia, has convicted Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's finance chief, on five counts of "historical sexual assault offenses," according to several media reports. The trial, which began Nov. 7, has been subject to a strict gag order in Australia. Pell has denied all allegations of sexual abuse. In the case at hand, Pell, 77, was convicted Tuesday of sexually assaulting two choir boys at Melbourne's St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1996, when he was archbishop of Melbourne. He will be sentenced and taken into custody in February, Crux reports, though his lawyers are likely to appeal the convictions.

Pope Francis appointed Pell as the Vatican's secretary for the economy in 2014 and placed him on his nine-member council of advisers, or the C9, in 2013. Pell, who took a leave of absence in 2017 to fight the abuse charges, was removed from the council at the end of October, the Vatican said Wednesday, along with Chilean Carcinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa — who stands accused of covering up for abuser priests — and Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya.

"The Holy See has the utmost respect for the Australian courts," Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said Wednesday. "We are aware there is a suppression order in place and we respect that order." Pell, the highest-ranked Catholic official ever tried and now convicted of sexual abuse, still faces additional charges dating back to the 1970s. Peter Weber

3:13 a.m.

Chinese authorities have detained Canadian businessman Michael Spavor, the second Canadian citizen arrested in China this week, and Canada is increasingly concerned that China is retaliating over Canada's arrest of Chinese business executive Meng Wanzhou at America's request. Chinese officials said Thursday that Spavor, an entrepreneur with longstanding ties to North Korea, is being investigated on suspicion of harming China's state security. The former Canadian diplomat arrested Monday night, Michael Kovrig, is being investigated on the same charge, Chinese state media reports.

The U.S. accuses Meng of conspiring to mislead banks about her company, telecom giant Huawei, violating sanctions against Iran, but President Trump suggested on Tuesday that he might intervene in the case, tying Meng's arrest to his trade spat with China and U.S. national security. Canada protested Trump's apparent politicization of what Canadian and U.S. officials strongly insist is a solely legal affair.

China has not linked the detention of the Canadians to Meng's arrest, but "in China there is no coincidence," Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said after Kovrig's arrest. "Unfortunately Canada is caught in the middle of this dispute between the U.S and China." Still, "the detention of Kovrig and possible detention of Spavor reflect an increasingly bold approach to international disputes under President Xi Jinping," The Associated Press notes. "China has often retaliated against foreign governments and corporations in diplomatic disputes, but rarely by holding foreign nationals." Peter Weber

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