×
November 15, 2018

President Trump reportedly hated that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn't have an Ivy League education. But it didn't stop Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker from rising to replace Sessions after his ouster last week. And it's far from the most unusual thing on Whitaker's resume, The Washington Post reports.

While securing his undergraduate and eventual law degree from the University of Iowa, Whitaker was "something of a local legend" on the Rose Bowl-bound football team, the Post details. The Iowa native moved to Minnesota and became a general counsel for a grocery store chain after graduating, then returned home in 2001 and launched a failed bid for state treasurer. Next up, Whitaker bought a majority stake in trailer manufacturer, purchased an entire day care center, and co-founded a concrete company.

Whitaker worked at a small law firm the whole time he was back in Iowa, and was "plucked from relative obscurity" to become a U.S. attorney in 2004 under former President George W. Bush, writes the Post. In that job, Whitaker was accused of targeting an openly gay Democratic state senator with extortion charges. Whitaker has denied the allegation, per the Post. He stepped down as U.S. attorney in 2009, and after a few more business ventures, ended up at the DOJ.

Attorneys general "typically boast judgeships, partnerships at prestigious firms, and senior roles in the Justice Department," the Post writes. So it's no wonder Whitaker had what one federal court expert called an "an extraordinarily weak and unusual background for a U.S. attorney." Yet somehow, the Trump loyalist and critic of the Russia probe beat the odds and took charge of them all. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:30 a.m.

Fox is removing Jussie Smollett from Empire — at least for a little bit.

After police accused the actor of falsifying his report of a hate crime, Fox spent weeks insisting he wasn't being written off the show. Empire producers continued to stand by Smollett in a Friday statement, saying they were "placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out." Still, they had decided to "remove" Smollett's "role of 'Jamal' from the final two episodes of the season."

Last month, Smollett filed a police report saying he was the victim of a hate crime and that two men attacked him in Chicago. After inconsistencies emerged in Smollett's account, police arrested him Wednesday night on charges of filing a false police report. Chicago police then alleged on Thursday that the purported crime was a staged "publicity stunt" to "promote his career" and perhaps secure a raise.

Smollett has since been released on bail and returned to the Empire set Friday, reportedly telling cast and crew there he's innocent. Various reports suggested Fox would cut Smollett's scenes from Empire or even fire him, but the network didn't take official action until Friday. In its statement, Fox only said it was cutting Smollett's scenes "to avoid further disruption on set," and reiterated that showrunners "care about him deeply." Read the whole statement from Fox on Twitter. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:12 a.m.

The possible title of the next James Bond movie is leaving some of the franchise's fans shaken, not stirred.

The Guardian reported Friday that the working title being used during production of the upcoming 25th Bond film is Shatterhand. Working titles don't always reflect what a movie's final name will be — the Star Wars franchise, for instance, famously shoots under purposely ridiculous or obtuse titles, such as Space Bear for The Last Jedi.

But in this case, seeing Shatterhand show up as the working title for the next Bond movie is notable since it had already been rumored as one of the names that was being considered.

Though the title is undeniably ridiculous, especially when viewed next to names like Spectre and Skyfall, it does have some significance to fans: Shatterhand is the alias used by Ernst Blofeld in the Bond book You Only Live Twice. Whether this ends up being the final title, then, the fact that it's reportedly being used during production seems to indicate that Christoph Waltz's villain from Spectre may return.

The film, which will see Daniel Craig returning in the lead role after previously saying he would rather "slash my wrists" than play the character again, will open on April 8, 2020. Brendan Morrow

10:06 a.m.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's fight against foreign aid has turned even more deadly.

U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó has welcomed humanitarian aid for the impoverished country, but Maduro announced the closure of the country's border with Brazil on Thursday in an attempt to keep it out. Civilians still tried to keep border traffic flowing on Friday, but soldiers fired back against the operation, leaving at least one dead and 12 injured, The Washington Post reports.

Maduro claimed victory last year in an election widely seen to be fraudulent, while Guaidó declared himself the legitimate interim leader as he and the U.S. continue to call for new elections. Since then, Maduro has maintained that any aid is an attempt to undermine his presidency and set up a blockade at the Colombian border last week. Guaidó said some aid did make it into the country.

Still, Maduro moved again to block aid by shutting down the Brazilian border, and said he was considering a "total closure" on the border with Colombia as well, per Al Jazeera. An indigenous community kept a checkpoint open on the border for aid to flow through, but a military convoy confronted the group Friday morning. Community members "sought to block the military vehicles by standing in front of them" and the military opened fire, "wounding at least 12 people, four of them seriously," the Post writes. At least one woman has died so far. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:49 a.m.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who was removed from his committee assignments last month after comments about white supremacy, says he will seek re-election in 2020 and will do so with a clean conscience.

King in an interview with Iowa Public Television on Thursday said that he has "nothing to apologize for," immediately going after the news media and citing President Trump as saying The New York Times is "a dishonest entity." King in January had been quoted in a Times interview as saying, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" The congressman also faced criticism in October after meeting with a group with Nazi ties and endorsing a white nationalist candidate for Toronto mayor, reports The Washington Post.

But King on Thursday blamed the outrage he has faced in recent months on "formerly credible" news organizations, which create a "phenomenon that America is not ready for, and that's this cyberbullying that unleashes." He insisted that there is "no story whatsoever" and that these reports from the Times and the Post were false.

In particular, King claimed he had been misquoted by the Times and that his question of "how did that language become offensive?" was only referring to the term "Western civilization," not the terms white nationalist and white supremacist. The Times interview, however, was far from the first time King came under fire for using white supremacist language. He had also said in 2017, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies," later defending this comment by saying "it's not about race." Additionally, he said of the term "white nationalist" in 2018, "It is a derogatory term today. I wouldn't have thought so maybe a year or two or three ago." Brendan Morrow

9:09 a.m.

Duke said Thursday that freshman basketball superstar Zion Williamson suffered a mild knee sprain when his Nike PG 2.5 shoe burst apart at the start of the Blue Devils' prime-time televised game against North Carolina, suggesting he could return soon to the currently No. 1-ranked team, The Washington Post reported. Nike shares dropped by 1 percent on Thursday as the athletic apparel maker scrambled to figure out why the shoe disintegrated, per CNN.

Former President Barack Obama was courtside, and was shown in a widely seen video reacting by pointing toward Williamson and saying, "His shoe broke!"

Duke struggled after Williamson's injury, losing to No. 8 UNC in a stunning upset. The incident renewed debate over whether playing college ball is worth the risk for players who stand to make millions as pros. Harold Maass

8:46 a.m.

The CEO of Time's Up resigned last week after a sexual assault claim was made against her son, the organization said Friday.

Lisa Borders, who became the CEO and president of Time's Up in November 2018 after previously serving as president of the Women's National Basketball Association, announced Monday she had resigned "with deep regret" in order to "address family concerns." She did not provide further details at the time.

On Friday, though, Time's Up said that Borders had informed members last week that her son had been accused of sexual assault, and she decided to resign within 24 hours. "We agreed that it was the right decision for all parties involved," the statement adds. This followed a report from the Los Angeles Times on the allegations.

Borders was the first CEO and president of Time's Up, which formed in 2018 as a movement against sexual harassment and assault. The group says Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Goldman will serve as interim CEO "while we conduct an executive search." Brendan Morrow

8:20 a.m.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appears to be the only person arguing that the White House has complied with congressional demands that President Trump submit a report determining who is responsible for the murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. Last November, Risch's predecessor, former Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and ranking Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) had triggered the Global Magnitsky Act, giving Trump four months to report back.

Two weeks ago, when the 120-day deadline lapsed, the White House informed the Senate that Trump "maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate," which most senators took to mean Trump was violating the Magnitsky Act. But Risch has been telling his Republican committee colleagues that Trump has, in fact, complied with the law, Politico reports. A majority of senators, after getting a classified briefing on Khasoggi's murder, believe that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was at least complicit in the killing.

In effort to quell open GOP revolt on his committee, Risch sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a letter requesting a classified briefing on the administration's efforts to hold the Saudi government accountable. All but two committee Republicans — Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) — signed the letter, Politico reports, and Democrats declined to sign it after Risch rejected their insertion of a line about how the White House "is not in compliance" with the law, "which is of grave concern to members of this committee." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads