June 12, 2019

2020 Democrats' walk-on music has it pretty clear that there's no one genre that defines the party.

Yet it seems Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) didn't quite get the message. In a NowThis video posted Tuesday, the presidential longshot branded himself as a "country music Democrat," and said that he's "not apologizing for that," despite literally no one asking him to apologize.

Swalwell's apparently controversial music take came up when NowThis asked for his go-to karaoke song. "Country Roads," Swalwell answered, which isn't even the full name of the John Denver hit that's as much of a mainstream favorite as it is a country hit. Swalwell also told NowThis his "hottest pop culture take" is that he loves Taylor Swift — an actually very lukewarm take shared by millions of other people around the world.

It seems like Swalwell is using "country music Democrat" to drill home the fact that he's from a Republican family. But country music isn't just Toby Keith, and even old-school country stars and staples have a history of leaning liberal. And Swift, as Swalwell should know, has embraced the labels of "country" and "Democrat" without apology in the past few months.

If Swalwell really wanted to make "country music Democrat" a thing, he'd swap out his walk-on song — the theme from Beverly Hills, 90210 — for something a little more rural. Might we suggest Change from Swift's Fearless album?

5:40 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has a pretty good tale to share — but it may be a little tall.

Biden, who is running for president, has been spicing up his recent campaign stump speeches with a story of how he was arrested while in South Africa trying to see Nelson Mandela, The New York Times reports. But that recollection of events has only recently come to light, and it was reportedly omitted from Biden's 2007 memoir that detailed his escapades in the country around that time.

During recent campaign speeches, Biden says he "had the great honor" of meeting Mandela and "of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto." As Miami Herald reporter Alex Daugherty points out, Soweto is a ways away from Robben Island, where Mandela's maximum security prison was located.

The arrest, which has seemingly only been brought up publicly by Biden in the last few weeks, was not found referenced anywhere by readily available news outlets, per the Times.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. from 1977 to 1979 was Andrew Young. While Young reportedly acknowledged going to South Africa with Biden, he said he was never arrested in the country, and he told the Times he didn't think Biden had been arrested there either.

"I don't think there was ever a situation where congressmen were arrested in South Africa," Young told the Times, although he did say some people were being arrested in Washington.

The story, which was seemingly nonexistent before a few weeks ago, has been told three times on the trail as Biden heads into Nevada and South Carolina, where he needs to pull in big numbers in order to counteract a lackluster showing in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Word of advice: there are other ways to make yourself look tough to voters that don't include broadcasting a trip to the slammer. Marianne Dodson

5:31 p.m.

U.S. officials told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that Russia is interfering in the 2020 campaign to help him win the presidency, people familiar with the matter tell The Washington Post.

President Trump and other lawmakers are also reportedly aware of the assistance, which is an apparent "effort to interfere with the Democratic contest," the Post writes. The Post didn't learn what kind of interference Russia was undertaking, but Russia did try to aid Sanders' 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton via social media.

Sanders denounced Russian interference on anyone's behalf in a statement to the Post, saying "I don't care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president. My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do."

Trump and the House Intelligence Committee reportedly learned earlier this week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 election to aid Trump's re-election. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:26 p.m.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will release three women from the nondisclosure agreements he'd signed with them "to address complaints about comments they said I had made," his campaign announced Friday.

In a statement, Bloomberg said his company "identified 3 NDAs that we signed over the past 30-plus years with women," and that "if any of them want to be released from their NDA so that they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company." And after "a lot of reflecting," Bloomberg pledged to no longer "offer confidentiality agreements to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct" while he was still running his company.

Bloomberg's choice is in no doubt influenced by Wednesday night's Democratic primary debate, where Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Bloomberg release women from their NDAs. Bloomberg said those women didn't "accuse me of doing anything; maybe they didn't like the joke I told."

Warren followed up by writing her own contract that Bloomberg could use to invalidate the NDAs and sharing it publicly on Thursday. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:13 p.m.

The jury in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial has indicated it's facing a potential deadlock on the most serious charges against him.

During the fourth day of deliberations on Friday, jurors in the Weinstein rape trial asked what they should do if they can't reach a verdict on the two predatory sexual assault charges, but can on the other three, Variety reports.

Weinstein is facing sexual assault and rape charges stemming from the allegations of Mimi Haleyi, who alleges Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006, and Jessica Mann, who alleges Weinstein raped her in 2013. But among the other accusers who testified was Annabella Sciorra, who alleges Weinstein raped her in 1993 or 1994.

Sciorra testified to support the two charges of predatory sexual assault, and it's her testimony that jurors have appeared to be focused on in recent days. On Friday, they revisited her cross-examination, and earlier in the week, they asked the judge to clarify why it is Weinstein didn't face charges specifically stemming from Sciorra's allegation. Her case is too old to prosecute, but the first count of predatory sexual assault relates to the allegations of Haleyi and Sciorra, while the second count relates to the allegations of Mann and Sciorra, The Wrap reports. Weinstein is also facing charges of criminal sexual act in the first degree, rape in the first-degree, and rape in the third-degree.

The prosecution on Friday said they wouldn't accept a "partial verdict," and the judge instructed jurors to continue deliberations, per The Hollywood Reporter. Not long after, the jury was dismissed for the day, with deliberations set to pick back up on Monday. Brendan Morrow

2:19 p.m.

Will another caucus catastrophe unfold this weekend in Nevada?

Democrats sure hope not, with a Nevada Democratic Party spokesperson telling NBC News that
"we have been working around the clock to ensure that what happened in Iowa will not happen here," also saying the party will be "taking no chances when it comes to reporting."

To that end, Nevada Democrats, NBC reports, have hired a call center with 200 paid operators to take in results on Saturday, with the party spokesperson saying steps like these should "ensure that our precinct chairs and site leads will be able to successfully report results on caucus day." In Iowa, problems arose both due to technical issues with an app and due to clogged phone lines that made it difficult to report results.

In a memo distributed to the 2020 campaigns, the Nevada state party's executive director said that a dedicated phone hotline will be the "primary source of the precinct caucus results," The New York Times reports. Precinct chairs, the memo said, will "call a hotline to securely report their results to a trained operator, will submit via text a photo of their caucus reporting sheet to state party staff through an established MMS reporting hub, and then they will return their caucus reporting sheet and other materials to their Site Lead."

The plan was originally for the Nevada caucus to use an app developed by the same company behind the disastrous Iowa app, but those plans, obviously, were ditched. Still, DNC Chair Tom Perez, who NBC reports will actually be on the ground for the caucus this time, earlier this week couldn't commit to the same-day release of the results, telling The Associated Press, "We're going to do our best to release results as soon as possible, but our North Star, again, is accuracy." Brendan Morrow

12:51 p.m.

The new horror sequel Brahms: The Boy II is, according to critics, pretty bad — and you can apparently thank Jared Kushner memes for its existence.

Director William Brent Bell in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Friday explained that the creepy doll sequel, a follow-up to his 2016 film The Boy, got off the ground specifically because there were so many memes comparing the doll to Kushner.

"That's when Lakeshore called me and said, you know, 'this is really taking on a life of its own now in the zeitgeist of pop culture," Bell explained. "You want to think about an idea for a sequel?'"

Bell further explained to UPI that producer Gary Lucchesi called him "after about six months" of The Boy-related Kushner memes proliferating online, as this proved that "the doll is still hanging around, so we have something that interested people." It was, evidently, memes first, sequel idea second.

Given the follow-up's dismal 8 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, there may be a lesson to be learned here: be careful when you meme. You may just inadvertently spawn a terrible horror movie. Brendan Morrow

11:50 a.m.

Attorney Gloria Allred would like Prince Andrew to give the FBI a ring.

Allred, who represents some of late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein's accusers, has reportedly paid to have a bus drive around London with an ad putting Prince Andrew on blast after prosecutors said he hasn't been cooperating with their Epstein investigation.

"If you see this man please ask him to call the FBI to answer their questions," an ad reads on the bus, which was seen driving near Buckingham Palace not long after Prince Andrew's birthday, The Wrap reports.

Last month, Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Prince Andrew has provided "zero cooperation" as they continue to investigate Epstein's co-conspirators. Virginia Roberts Giuffre has claimed Epstein forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17, a claim he has denied. He stepped back from public duties after his ties to Epstein came under scrutiny and after a widely-panned interview in which he said Epstein "conducted himself in a manner unbecoming."

When he decided to step back in November, Prince Andrew said he was "willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required." Allred in a press conference on Friday urged him to do just that, per The Guardian, saying, "I implore you, Prince Andrew. You must do the right thing and stop shaming your family — the Queen, your children. If you have done nothing wrong then just talk to the FBI."

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