July 18, 2019

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, is pushing back — though only slightly — after President Trump's rally crowd chanted "send her back!" about a minority congresswoman.

Walker on Thursday tweeted that "I struggled with" the chant at Trump's Wednesday night rally, which came as the president repeated his attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of the four minority congresswomen he told to "go back" to where she came from in a weekend tweet. Omar fled to the United States as a refugee from Somalia at a young age.

This language at the rally, Walker suggested, is "painful to our friends in the minority communities." At the same time, Walker didn't veer too far from Trump's talking points because in the same tweet he attacked Omar as someone who has "great disdain" for the United States.

Trump's weekend tweets drew some pushback from elected Republicans, while GOP leaders like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defended him and argued he is not racist. On Thursday, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) joined Walker in criticizing the chant by saying "there is no place for that" while defending Trump as someone who "does not have a racist bone in his body," reports Time's Alana Abramson.

Outside of elected officials, Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, also called the chants "wrong" and "vile," adding that they "don't reflect who we are as Americans," while conservative Trump critic Bill Kristol tweeted that "'send her back' conservatism is not a conservatism worth defending." Brendan Morrow

11:33 p.m.

Before he was accused of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. elections, businessman Lev Parnas was posting photos on his private Instagram account showing him hobnobbing with various members of the Trump family, Rudy Giuliani, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Earlier this month, Parnas and Igor Fruman, both Giuliani associates, were arrested, with prosecutors in Manhattan saying they also attempted to influence U.S. politics on behalf of a Ukrainian government official. The Wall Street Journal's Shelby Holliday found Parnas' Instagram account, carefully curated to show Parnas hanging out with powerful Republicans. In one picture, he's seen with his son and President Trump, who is giving a thumbs up sign, and in another, he's on a private plane with Giuliani. Parnas also made a slideshow featuring photos with Trump and his sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.

Holliday reports that Parnas zigzagged across the country ahead of the 2018 midterm elections to support GOP politicians, posting photos along the way, and on the day after Attorney General William Barr released his summary of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, Parnas uploaded a picture showing him at dinner with Trump's legal team. The caption read, "Congratulations team [T]rump!!! Job well done!!! Even during our celebration dinner everybody hard at work!!! #trump2020." Regarding Parnas and Fruman, Trump said, "I don't know them, I don't know about them, I don't know what they do."

Politico also reported on Monday that Parnas was photographed at events with DeSantis in the days leading up to the November election. He is seen next to DeSantis at a campaign rally in South Daytona on Nov. 4, and a later event in Boca Raton. Last week, DeSantis — whose campaign received $50,000 from a company created by Parnas and Fruman — said Parnas was at "a lot of" Republican events, but "was like any other donor, nothing more than that." The DeSantis donation has been turned over to the U.S. Treasury. Catherine Garcia

10:54 p.m.

Disney has provided one last look at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker with a tear-jerking final trailer teasing the saga's end.

The new trailer for the ninth episode released Monday night keeps its mysterious marketing campaign going but still packs an emotional wallop, most notably with a scene halfway through in which C-3PO takes, as he puts it, "one last look" at his friends. Why Threepio seems to be saying his goodbyes is unclear, but could he be the latest classic Star Wars character to bite the dust?

While still not revealing Emperor Palpatine in his full glory, this final trailer does feature the classic villain's throne and some new dialogue. "Long have I waited, and now, your coming together is your undoing," Palpatine says, presumably referring to Rey and Kylo Ren. At one point, Rey looks to be confronting Palpatine in the flesh, suggesting he truly has returned fully alive and well after seemingly dying in Return of the Jedi. After a shot of Rey and Kylo apparently destroying Darth Vader's mask together, another team-up to face him looks likely.

We also get glimpses at characters here who we haven't seen much in the film's marketing, including The Last Jedi's Rose Tico, as well as a new character played by Dominic Monaghan. As John Williams' stirring score builds, the footage concludes with Luke and Leia each reading part of the line, "The Force will be with you, always."

As expected, The Rise of Skywalker's marketing continues to build the film up as the end of the series as we know it, with the "Skywalker Saga" set to wrap up even as Star Wars movies about other stories are to continue. This time, the trailer declares that while "the saga will end," "the story lives forever." Watch the final trailer, which debuted as tickets for the film went on sale, below. Brendan Morrow

10:09 p.m.

Those fried chicken and pickle sandwiches will have to come from somewhere else, as Chick-fil-A's first location in the United Kingdom will shut its doors early next year when its six-month lease is up.

Chick-fil-A, which has 2,400 U.S. locations, opened on Oct. 10 at the Oracle Mall in Reading, and almost immediately, LGBTQ activists called for a boycott. The company has donated to organizations that aim to reverse LGBTQ rights and are against same-sex marriage, and in a statement, the advocacy group Reading Pride said the chain's "ethos and morale stance goes completely against our values, and that of the UK, as we are a progressive country that has legalized same sex marriage for some years, and continues to strive toward equality."

The Oracle Mall said not renewing the lease was "the right thing to do," NBC News reports, but Chick-fil-A claimed in a statement to The Washington Post that the plan was always to close in six months. Reading Pride CEO Martin Cooper isn't buying it, saying in an email to NBC News, "what business would not stay if they were successful and profitable? The point is, they've not been given the option to stay by the landlords, The Oracle." Catherine Garcia

9:23 p.m.

President Trump's perception of Ukraine being a corrupt country was reinforced by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who made disparaging comments about the country during conversations with Trump, U.S. officials told The Washington Post.

This information was shared by George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state, during his closed-door testimony last week as part of the House impeachment inquiry against Trump, the Post reports. The officials said that Putin and Orban did not directly encourage Trump to request Ukraine launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, or push the debunked conspiracy theory that Kyiv was behind the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee. Instead, Trump was driven by his own belief in the conspiracy theory, peddled by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

National security officials were ready for Putin to try to damage the United States' relationship with Ukraine, the Post reports, and a former official said during a conversation in early May, Putin "did what he always did," which was say that Ukraine "is just a den of corruption." Such conversations made it harder for White House officials to get Trump to support Ukraine's new president, who was elected in April, and it didn't help that many people who backed aid to Ukraine, including former Defense Secretary James Mattis, had left the administration. Read more about how Trump is shaped by his relationships with authoritarian leaders at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

7:57 p.m.

President Trump may soon have a brand new acting chief of staff.

Over the last few days, Trump has been chatting with allies about who might be able to replace current acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, two people close to the White House told Reuters. Mulvaney has been acting chief of staff since January, when he stepped in after John Kelly resigned.

Trump isn't happy with how Mulvaney dealt with the fallout from his now-reversed decision to host next year's G7 at his own Miami resort, Reuters says, or how Mulvaney publicly admitted last week that Trump held military aid from Ukraine in order to get Kyiv to investigate a conspiracy theory about the 2016 presidential election. He's also reportedly angry that Mulvaney pushed to bring former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) onto Trump's outside legal team, despite the fact that lobbying rules prevent Gowdy from joining until January.

"The president expressed some concern after Mick's difficult week," one person told Reuters. Two people who have been suggested to take Mulvaney's place have previously turned down the position: Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. Another name being floated around is Matthew Whitaker; a Trump supporter, he served as acting attorney general before William Barr's confirmation. Catherine Garcia

6:51 p.m.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday said some U.S. troops may remain in eastern Syria to ensure that Islamic State fighters do not take over oilfields.

Earlier this month, President Trump said he would pull most U.S. troops out of Syria, which paved the way for Turkey to cross the border and attempt to push back Kurdish forces. As American allies, the Kurds led the fight against ISIS in Syria, losing thousands of fighters in the process.

Esper said the plan is still being worked out, and has not yet been seen by Trump. By leaving some U.S. troops in Syria, it would give Trump "maneuver room," he told reporters. Esper also said that troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq, and operations against ISIS will continue. During a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Trump said ISIS had once been "all over the place," but he "captured them. I'm the one who did the capturing." Catherine Garcia

5:22 p.m.

CNN host Alisyn Camerota isn't a fan of the new guy.

The network recently hired former GOP Rep. Sean Duffy as a contributor, and in his first appearance on the network on Monday, he was already throwing out conspiracy theories. In particular, Duffy defended White House Press Secretary Mick Mulvaney for saying the White House wanted Ukraine to hand over the DNC email server — something Ukraine certainly doesn't have.

Duffy reiterated Mulvaney's comments from last week where he said the White House withheld aid money from Ukraine to pressure it to hand over the emails hacked in 2016 — an admitted quid pro quo. There's just one problem: "That's a conspiracy theory," Camerota told Duffy. The former congressmember then dug himself deeper into his theory, even trying to bring former Vice President Joe Biden into the mix. Camerota breathlessly egged him on the whole time before blurting out that "Ukraine doesn't have the server." Duffy even agreed Camerota might be right on that point, but to him, the facts didn't exactly matter. Kathryn Krawczyk

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