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January 14, 2019

For Game of Thrones fans, winter is looking especially dark this year.

HBO on Sunday released the first teaser trailer for the series' eighth season, which features Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) visiting the crypts of Winterfell and encountering statues of themselves that signal their own future deaths.

This being Game of Thrones, the cryptic teaser naturally spawned tons of fan theories. For instance, viewers immediately noticed that Jon's statue appears to age him, whereas Sansa's and Arya's come closer to capturing their present-day likenesses. Perhaps Harington's face was just difficult to accurately chisel, but could this alternatively symbolize the fact that Arya and Sansa will perish in Season 8, whereas Jon will live much longer?

There's also the question of Bran Stark's absence in the trailer, which some fans are taking as evidence of a particularly wild long-standing theory: that Bran will actually become the Night King after getting stuck back in time at the end of the series. Of course, it could also be that Bran isn't here simply because he has fully become the Three-Eyed Raven and will never truly be a Stark again.

The teaser certainly shouldn't be taken as gospel, as the footage is really meant to symbolize what lies ahead rather than depict a scene from the show. But with three back-to-back clips being played that all tie into Jon Snow's parentage in some way, expect his realization of his lineage to be a massive turning point in the series.

Game of Thrones will return for its eighth season on April 14. Watch the teaser below. Brendan Morrow

11:34 a.m.

A White House spokesperson on Friday refused to say whether President Trump directed his attorney to lie to Congress.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News Friday it's "ludicrous" that a news outlet like BuzzFeed News is being taken seriously, with the term "news outlet" placed in air quotes. He argued that BuzzFeed's report, which contained the bombshell allegations, is uncorroborated and that the publication can't be trusted ever since it published the Steele dossier.

But strangely, when Fox News repeatedly asked Gidley to say whether the allegations in the story are true, he wouldn't directly answer. "So you're saying the president did not tell Michael Cohen to do that?" Bill Hemmer asked. Gidley dodged, just saying, "I'm telling you right now this is exactly why the president refuses to give any credence or credibility to news outlets because they have no ability to corroborate anything they put out there."

Hemmer quickly pointed out that "that was not a denial." Shortly after, Gidley was asked directly about the allegation, "Is that true or false?" Once again, Gidley wouldn't answer this very basic yes or no question. "I'm not going to give any credence or credibility to Michael Cohen, who's a convicted felon and an admitted liar," he said.

BuzzFeed's story cited two law enforcement officials as saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller had evidence that Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress. Trump on Twitter similarly criticized Cohen, though he was not a BuzzFeed source, writing that he is "lying to reduce his jail time!" Watch the bizarre Gidley interview below. Brendan Morrow

10:58 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is offended that you're offended.

Earlier this week, Pence's wife Karen Pence took a job at a Christian elementary school that explicitly bans "homosexual activity." And when detractors starting calling her out, Pence sat down with a Christian TV network Thursday to say their criticism was "deeply offensive."

News broke Tuesday that the second lady had taken a job at Immanuel Christian Elementary School in northern Virginia. She'll be teaching art twice a week to students whose parents have signed an "essentials of the faith" pledge that outlines just how they'll be educated. The 3-page document describes a swath of Christian values, mandating parents "regularly pray for the needs of my school, my child's teachers, the school administration, and school board." It also says the school can refuse admission to a student or expel them if they or someone in their home are found "participating in" or "supporting ... homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity."

Naturally, news organizations took note and LGBT activists craftily retaliated. But Pence said this reporting from "major news organizations" was proof they were "attacking Christian education," he said on the religious Eternal World Television Network. That's "deeply offensive to us," Pence added, but said he and Karen would "let the other critics roll off our back" and called for the end of "this criticism of Christian education in America."

Read more about the controversy at The Washington Post, or watch Pence's comments on EWTN below. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:41 a.m.

The bombshell BuzzFeed News story suggesting President Trump directed his attorney to lie to Congress barely got any coverage on Fox News Friday morning — other than when a Trump ally came on to dismiss the source.

Former congressman Newt Gingrich laughed through a Fox & Friends interview, dismissing BuzzFeed as the "equivalent of those tabloids you buy at the grocery store on the way out that introduce you to Martians and tell you the story of three stars who had anguished lives that you never knew about."

Gingrich also said that the allegations in the story could not possibly be true because Trump would not be "dumb enough" to lie to Congress.

The Fox & Friends hosts themselves didn't really talk about the story much. As Media Matters' Bobby Lewis points out, the story didn't even get mentioned until more than 40 minutes into the show. It came up as part of a brief news report, which was framed entirely around Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani's response. Giuliani had questioned the report's accuracy by suggesting Michael Cohen shouldn't be believed, even though Cohen wasn't actually the story's source.

During their interview with Gingrich, though, the hosts certainly didn't sound like they were giving the story much credence, with Steve Doocy asking "who are these law enforcement officials" quoted in the story. Doocy also emphasized that the reporter "never actually saw with his own two eyes ... that material." Watch a portion of the Gingrich interview below. Brendan Morrow

10:18 a.m.

Another election, another DNC hack?

The Democratic National Committee is piling onto its ongoing lawsuit against President Trump's 2016 campaign, Russia, and others, saying it was the intended victim of yet another cyberattack. Hackers — likely Russian ones — unsuccessfully tried to infiltrate DNC email addresses just days after the 2018 midterms, ABC News reports via court documents filed late Thursday night.

The DNC first faced a major hack in the summer of 2016 when thousands of its emails were posted on WikiLeaks by an alleged Russian agent. As the 2018 midterms approached, the threat of Russian interference and any hacking at all actually appeared pretty minimal, but this new court filing suggests those previous assumptions may not quite be true.

In Thursday's filing, the DNC alleged that "on Nov. 14, 2018, dozens of DNC email addresses were targeted in a spear-phishing campaign." The campaign didn't appear successful, the filing said. But the timing of the attack and the methods used resemble the work of a Russian hacking group alleged to have conducted the 2016 hack, the DNC claims, leading it to say "it is probable that Russian intelligence again attempted to unlawfully infiltrate DNC computers in November 2018."

These allegations add to the heap the DNC has already levied against the Trump campaign, its former chair Paul Manafort, Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, and the entire Russian federation, among many others. Read more about the new accusations at ABC News. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:39 a.m.

One of the reporters who broke the bombshell story suggesting President Trump directed his attorney to lie to Congress says he hasn't directly seen the hard evidence, but he's still completely confident the story is correct.

BuzzFeed News' Anthony Cormier spoke with CNN about the article he worked on with Jason Leopold, which set off a firestorm and which the House Intelligence Committee says it will investigate. Some have expressed skepticism about the report, so CNN asked Cormier if he has directly seen evidence that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, i.e. the emails, texts, and other documents mentioned in the story.

"No, I have not seen it personally," Cormier said while adding that the two law enforcement officials mentioned in the report are "fully 100 percent read in to that aspect of the special counsel's investigation." Cormier said his sources began to compile evidence that Trump suborned perjury even before Cohen started to cooperate with Robert Mueller, and "it's our understanding that this is rock solid information developed over the course of a long period of time."

Later in the interview, when CNN's Alisyn Camerota asked Cormier how he can be certain about the report, he confidently replied, "I am rock solid. My sourcing on this goes beyond the two that are on the record. This 100 percent happened. I am the individual who confirmed and verified that it happened." He added, "we've been able to verify this in other ways."

Watch a portion of CNN's interview with Cormier below. Brendan Morrow

9:17 a.m.

A new report from BuzzFeed News suggesting President Trump directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress set off a firestorm in Democratic circles and sparked some to call for Trump's swift impeachment. But many conservatives are urging caution, saying the allegations should be treated with skepticism.

Conservative Erick Erickson pointed to a few reasons he's taking the allegations with a grain of salt. First of all, the BuzzFeed story claims Special Counsel Robert Mueller learned that Trump directed Cohen to lie, in part, by speaking with members of the Trump Organization. But, Erickson points out, ABC's John Santucci says his reporting on the matter has not turned up any members of the Trump Organization who say they've been interviewed by Mueller's team.

Other conservatives seem suspicious because this new information was not mentioned in Cohen's plea deal. The Daily Wire's Ryan Saavedra dismissed the report, pointing to other Russia-related stories he says were not subsequently corroborated:

The Washington Examiner's Byron York summarizes what seems to lie ahead, writing: "Looks like we're in another 'big if true' cycle of the Trump-Russia matter."

"If this story is correct, it's both inexcusable behavior and a full-scale disaster for Trump," The Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro tweeted. Conservative blogger Allahpundit put the whole thing in pretty simple black-and-white terms, saying: "Either Trump's finished or BuzzFeed's credibility is."

Read the entire report at BuzzFeed News. Brendan Morrow

8:56 a.m.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Friday that the electric-car maker is cutting its full-time staff by 7 percent as it struggles to cut prices and ramp up production of its Model 3 sedan, the company's first mass-market vehicle, CNN reports.

The job reductions follow other cost-cutting measures as Tesla struggles to expand profitability. Musk wrote in an email to Tesla employees that the company is "up against massive, entrenched competitors" and has to work "much harder than other manufacturers to survive while building affordable, sustainable products," reports CNBC. He added that building "affordable clean energy products at scale necessarily requires extreme effort and relentless creativity."

Tesla shares fell on the news, declining by nearly 6 percent in premarket trading. Read more at CNBC. Harold Maass

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