July 18, 2019

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both defended President Trump after a Wednesday rally in which his supporters chanted "send her back" about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), while Democrats warned about the danger of this rhetoric.

Graham on Thursday argued that chanting "send her back" about a minority congresswoman who came to the United States as a 12-year-old refugee from Somalia isn't racist and that this rhetoric is fine because Trump doesn't want to "send back" those who agree with him.

"A Somali refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back," Graham said, per CNN's Manu Raju. "If you're a racist, you want everyone from Somalia to go back because they're black or they're Muslim." Graham also suggested that this means the rhetoric is "about the criticism and the critic," although he offered some light criticism by saying that "I don't like it" and "I'm not going around telling anybody to leave the country who's an American citizen," The Hill reports.

McConnell also came to Trump's defense Thursday on Fox Business, saying the president is "onto something" with his attacks on the four congresswomen, although McConnell did not reference the "send her back" chant and instead praised the president as being "right about 'the squad' wanting to turn us into a socialist country," Mediaite reports.

Democrats, meanwhile, slammed Trump after the Wednesday rally, with the Congressional Black Caucus' Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) saying Omar's "life is in imminent danger" as a result of his rhetoric, Politico reports, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) accusing Trump of "instilling fear." Omar herself said that "racism distracts, racism hurts, racism kills." Brendan Morrow

5:48 p.m.

We officially have our new Catwoman.

Zoe Kravitz is set to take on the role of Selina Kyle in the The Batman, in which she'll star opposite Robert Pattinson as the caped crusader, The Hollywood Reporter writes. This decision was reportedly reached at the end of a "rigorous testing process," during which Ana de Armas, Ella Balinska, and Eiza Gonzalez were also considered for the part.

Director Matt Reeves confirmed the news on Twitter by way of an image of Kravitz from HBO's Big Little Lies.

Kravitz will be the latest actress to take on the iconic Batman character on film after Anne Hathaway, Halle Berry, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Lee Meriwether. Meriwether, Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt also played Catwoman on the original Batman TV series, while recently, Camren Bicondova took on the role on Fox's Gotham.

In addition to Pattinson and Kravitz, The Batman is also reportedly eying Jonah Hill for a key villain role, potentially the Riddler. The film, which comes after Ben Affleck hung up his cape following three Batman appearances, hits theaters in 2021. Brendan Morrow

5:39 p.m.

NBA players don't seem very happy with the league, commissioner Adam Silver, or Houston Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey right now.

Silver held a meeting last week in Shanghai with players from the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers, who were there for an exhibition game, ESPN reports. The players reportedly vented about being asked by local Chinese reporters to address the controversial situation that arose following a now-deleted tweet sent by Morey that offered support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy, anti-Beijing protests before Silver himself spoke on the matter. China, which is home to a massive NBA fan base, was angered by Morey's tweet, placing the NBA's relationship with the country in jeopardy.

It's become a pretty big deal stateside, as well, with numerous coaches and players getting thrown into hot water over their attempts to answer questions about the fiasco, which have frequently received criticism from across the political spectrum.

While the players seemed unhappy with Silver and the media, they also reportedly questioned whether Morey will be disciplined. It's unclear if the players think Morey — whom the NBA has sort of, but not really defended — should face consequences, but ESPN reports that they at least felt it was hypocritical of Silver to let him off the hook; several players reportedly said they believe they would have been disciplined if they were in Morey's shoes. Read more at ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

5:24 p.m.

Mark Zuckerberg is firing up the grill for the GOP.

The Facebook founder and CEO has received a lot of flack, including from President Trump and GOP lawmakers, for apparently holding a bias against conservative viewpoints. So in what seems to be an attempt to patch things up, Zuckerberg has been inviting conservative commentators and even one lawmaker to "informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners" over the past few months to discuss "free speech" and "partnerships," Politico reports.

Previous reports have indicated that Zuckerberg has been meeting for years with conservatives to "build trust" — not that it has curbed allegations of bias. But Politico's report details just who those conservatives are and how they feel about the meetings. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Zuckerberg met up earlier this year after Graham suggested Facebook had become a monopoly, a spokesperson confirmed. Zuckerberg also reportedly met with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who suggested Zuckerberg has led to "the death of free speech in America," and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who has called out purported "big tech bias."

Carlson and Hewitt declined to comment to Politico, but other conservatives who've talked to Zuckerberg seemed to be happy with the results. "I'm under no illusions that he's a conservative but I think he does care about some of our concerns," one person familiar with gatherings said. Another person said Zuckerberg is making a "genuine" effort to "make things right by conservatives."

Read more at Politico, and find Zuckerberg's response below. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:02 p.m.

President Trump has gone full bipartisan.

Matching calls from both sides of the aisle, Trump announced Monday that he would soon authorize sanctions "against current and former officials" in Turkey and "any persons contributing to Turkey's destabilizing actions in northeast Syria," as well as other tariffs against the country. The move comes after the U.S. withdrew troops from the Kurdish-held area and Turkey quickly invaded.

Trump's promised executive order includes an increase on steel tariffs back to 50 percent, "the level prior to reduction in May," a Monday statement from Trump read. The U.S. Commerce Department will "also immediately stop negotiations" with Turkey regarding a $100 billion trade deal. All of this will let the U.S. punish "those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire," and other "threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria," per the statement.

Talk of Turkey sanctions began last week when Trump unexpectedly announced he'd remove U.S. troops from the Kurdish-held area of Syria and essentially okay Turkey's imminent invasion of the area. Shortly after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) agreed they'd introduce sanctions on Turkey if the country attacked the Kurds, which it promptly did. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:54 p.m.

A day after former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, announced he was resigning from a Chinese private equity firm and that he would no longer sit on the board or work for any foreign company, the elder Biden unveiled a sweeping ethics agenda as part of his presidential campaign.

The plan did not mention his son, whose foreign business dealings have raised some eyebrows and, well, conspiracy theories, despite no evidence of any actual wrongdoing. Instead, Biden went after President Trump and his administration, which he dubbed the "most corrupt" in modern history. Like other Democratic candidates who have released ethics plans, Biden addressed issues such as campaign finance, tax returns, and lobbying.

Additionally, one of the points in the agenda seeks to prevent the president from "improperly interfering in federal investigations and prosecutions." If Biden is elected to office, that is, he will work to ensure that he and any succeeding presidents don't have too much say about "who or what to investigate or prosecute." While this addresses federal investigations, rather than foreign ones, it's worth noting that Biden and his son were the subject of unsubstantiated allegations of corruption in Ukraine by members of the Trump administration, which in turn led to Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate them.

Biden also plans to eliminate a loophole in existing financial disclosure law that allows candidates and public officials to transfer personal assets into trusts controlled by family members and close friends, assuring voters that "any member of his administration who is a beneficiary of a discretionary trust" will "disclose all of its holdings." Read the full plan here. Tim O'Donnell

3:41 p.m.

A Fort Worth police officer who killed a black woman with her 8-year-old nephew in the room resigned Monday and could see criminal charges.

The officer, who Police Chief Ed Kraus identified as Aaron Dean, shot 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson through a window at her house around 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Kraus said in a Monday press conference that he was going to fire Dean, but that the ex-officer had resigned before he could do so. Dean is now facing a criminal investigation, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Neighbors of Jefferson's called for a welfare check at her home on Saturday morning because the home's doors were open and its lights had been on for hours, per The Dallas Morning News. The officers who responded didn't know it was a non-emergency call, Kraus said. When they arrived, Dean did not announce himself as a police officer, but shouted at Jefferson to put up her hands and then quickly shot her through a bedroom window, a body-cam video of the situation shows. Dean was set to be interviewed regarding the shooting Monday, but "resigned before his opportunity to be cooperative," reflecting a "dishonorable discharge," Kraus said Monday.

The news has sparked an ongoing stream of protests and rallies demanding justice for the Jeffersons. "Why this man is not in handcuffs right now is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community, and it must be addressed," S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the family, told The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:10 p.m.

It appears that President Trump was a bit off the mark Monday morning when he tweeted a theory that Kurdish forces were releasing prisoners with ties to the Islamic State in an attempt to get the U.S. to continue fighting alongside them. Trump's suspicions were likely derived from the fact that the Kurds, longtime U.S. allies in the Middle East, were disappointed in Washington for removing U.S. troops from the region, providing Turkey — which considers Kurdish forces a national security threat — an opening to invade.

U.S. officials have said that prisoners with ISIS ties are being deliberately released, but it's actually Turkish proxy forces in the Free Syrian Army — a decentralized rebel group that has been linked to extremists groups and was once recruited by the CIA to aid the U.S. in its fight against ISIS — who are behind it, rather than the Kurds, Foreign Policy reports. The Free Syrian Army has also been accused of executing Kurdish prisoners and killing unarmed civilians.

As for the Kurds, one U.S. official said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have not abandoned or released any prisoners with ISIS ties and, in some cases, the SDF has reportedly moved detainees to other facilities further south.

Subsequently, Trump's theory is not sitting well with U.S. and Kurdish forces. "That has enraged our forces in Syria," another senior U.S. administration official said. "Kurds are still defending our bases. Incredibly reckless and dishonest thing to say." Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads