August 8, 2019

With Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss jumping from HBO to Netflix, it appears it's lights out for their controversial Confederate project.

Benioff and Weiss just signed a $200 million overall deal with Netflix that "wipes Confederate off HBO's books," reports The Hollywood Reporter. Vulture's Josef Adalian further confirms with sources that the show is now dead and won't move forward without Benioff and Weiss.

HBO in 2017 announced plans for this series from the Game of Thrones duo that imagines an alternate timeline in which the southern states seceded from the Union and slavery is still legal in America, immediately sparking controversy and calls for the project to be scrapped. HBO would later say it "screwed up" in its attempt to explain the show's "complicated subject," but while the project was delayed, the network earlier this year insisted this had nothing to do with the outrage.

HBO Programming President Casey Bloys recently signaled that Confederate would probably be off if Benioff and Weiss landed a deal somewhere else, saying, "anything they have with us would likely not go forward," Deadline reports. This seems to suggest audiences will never Confederate on the screen in any form, barring the possibility that, as Vox's Emily VanDerWerff speculates, Benioff and Weiss try to sell the project somewhere else after HBO's option expires. Then again, as she writes, "why would they?"

For now, Benioff and Weiss are set to work on a new Star Wars trilogy, leaving behind the Confederate and Game of Thrones firestorms for a franchise, clearly, free of any controversy or tumult whatsoever. Brendan Morrow

6:17 a.m.

House and Senate leaders agreed Monday on a deal to fund the federal government until Dec. 20, avoiding a government shutdown that would have begun Friday morning.

The stopgap funding resolution, expected to come up for a House vote on Tuesday, contains several additions requested by Democrats, Politico reports: a 3.1 military pay raise, $7.5 billion to fully fund the Census Bureau for its 2020 decennial census, and a measure to avoid a $7.6 billion cut to state highway funds next summer. It does not contain money Democrats has sought for historically black colleges and universities nor any funds for President Trump's border wall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed last week to postpone the inevitable border wall fight.

"Neither the White House nor congressional leaders believe a shutdown will occur — especially as House Democrats move forward with an impeachment inquiry against the president," Politico reports. "But nearly two months into the new government fiscal year, no progress has been made on any of the 12 annual spending bills."

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said Monday night that the spending talks have been "frustrating" and his preference was for a "clean" funding bill with no add-ons. "The tenor has been good, the tone of negotiations have been good," he said. "The results are puny." The panel's top Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), also seemed disappointed in the lack of progress: "I think we could have reached an agreement a month ago, and we should have." Peter Weber

5:26 a.m.

Monday's Late Show began with an announcement about President Trump's surprise weekend physical from a fake Walter Reed doctor bringing words of comfort and mockery: "It was a routine procedure, he is fine — though during the exam it was determined that the president had a blockage in his lower GI tract when it was discovered that several Republican members of Congress had lodged their heads in his, uh, quid pro hole." He named names.

"On Saturday, the president made an unscheduled trip to the hospital," and "the secretive nature of the visit prompted a lot of speculation," Stephen Colbert said in his monologue. "I am sincerely relieved to say that it looks like there's nothing wrong with the president's health," Colbert said, but he found the official White House announcement that Trump is "as healthy as can be" suspicious: "How healthy can be be? He is a 73-year-old insomniac who eats nothing but fast food who is afraid to go down stairs."

"A lot of people are asking questions about Trump's health since the trip to the doctor wasn't on his schedule," Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "Although you could probably just read Trump's schedule to and see why he needed a doctor: Two breakfasts, a brunch, a lunch...."

"The president loves to talk about how healthy he is and how slow and tired everyone else is — this visit chips away at that," Jimmy Kimmel noted at Kimmel Live. He, too, found the White House's explanation a little suspect: "He had a down day? Every day is a down day." He showed Trump's actual schedule for Monday. "The dolphins at Sea World have busier schedules than our president," he said.

Maybe Trump's health is being affected by the impeachment hearings, Kimmel speculated. "The president claims he will strongly consider testifying — I mean, he won't testify, that will never happen," but "it would be so much fun to see all the Republicans in that chamber barking and wagging their tails when their owner walks in."

Trump and his Republican defenders have had a hard time keeping their stories straight and their excuses up to date with the testimony. The Daily Show has a solution. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:59 a.m.

The California Department of General Services announced late Friday that the state will only purchase hybrids and electric cars and trucks, with an exception for some public safety vehicles. In the statement, the department also said California will only buy state vehicles from companies that "recognize the California Air Resources Board (CARB)'s authority to set greenhouse gas and zero emission vehicle standards."

Essentially, The New York Times reported Monday, California announced it won't buy state vehicles from GM, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, and some smaller automakers that sided with the Trump administration last month in its fight to strip California of its right to set its own tailpipe emission standards. Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW of North America reached agreement with California over the summer to make more fuel-efficient vehicles through 2025.

"Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of California's buying power," Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement. GM told the Times that California is undermining its own "goal of minimizing the state government's carbon footprint" by refusing to buy "vehicles like the Chevy Bolt." California seems to think it has enough other hybrid and electric vehicles to choose from. Peter Weber

2:36 a.m.

Stephen Colbert recapped where things stand with President Trump's impeachment at the start of Monday's Late Show. "For those just joining us, it looks like Donald Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine to try to pressure that country into announcing a bogus investigation of Joe Biden, and I'm happy to say, people understand that simple story. In a new poll, 70 percent of Americans say Trump's actions tied to Ukraine were wrong."

This week's impeachment hearings are expected to peak with Wednesday's testimony of Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the European Union. "Sondland is in deep," Colbert said, but his biggest "slip-up was when he called Donald Trump from a public restaurant in Kyiv, where several witnesses at the table heard Trump over the phone demanding an investigation of Biden. That's a direct link." Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch also testified she "was ousted after a smear campaign involving Rudy Giuliani," he said. "And if there's one thing Rudy Giuliani knows, it's how to destroy a reputation — so far just his, but he burned that mother to the ground."

Trump and Giuliani knew Yovanovitch "would be an obstacle to their corrupt scheme," Seth Meyers said on Late Night, and "as she was testifying, Trump decided to attack her" on Twitter, potentially committing another impeachable crime. "That's like punching the bailiff during your assault trial," he joked. Meyers ran through the public evidence against Trump, suggested it's enough to impeach and convict him already, then said if "you still needed more evidence tying Trump directly to this scheme to extort a foreign country to investigate his political rivals by dangling hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money," Sondland's call with Trump should seal the deal.

"Trump talking investigations on the call with Sondland looks pretty bad," Trevor Noah agreed at The Daily Show. "What's even worse is that after the call — and this is crazy — after the call, Sondland recaps what just happened for everyone at the table." He laughed at Sondland's alleged assurance to Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "loves your ass," quipping, "A few days ago, Fox news was saying impeachment wasn't 'sexy' enough." He imagined Wednesday's hearings: "'Mr. Sondland, does Zelensky really love Trump's ass?' He'll be like, 'That's correct. He likes big butts and I cannot lie ... to Congress.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

When a San Diego police officer went to inspect a stolen car last month, he had no idea he was about to meet his new best friend.

Inside the abandoned car, Officer Andre Thomas discovered a scared yellow Labrador in the back seat. The dog reminded him of Melakai, his own yellow Lab who died in March. For more than 10 years, Thomas and Melakai were always together, and because they were so close, it was hard for Thomas to ever imagine getting another dog.

Per protocol, Thomas brought the dog to the Humane Society, but he couldn't stop thinking about him. After three weeks, the owners hadn't yet claimed him, so Thomas stepped up and filed the adoption paperwork. The two have become inseparable, and the pup is now known as Victor, "a name worthy of the adversities the dog has overcome," the San Diego Police Department said. Catherine Garcia

View this post on Instagram

When Police Officer Andre Thomas responded to the call of a stolen car on Oct. 7, he was surprised to find a yellow Lab abandoned in the back of the vehicle. Only a few months prior, Officer Thomas had lost his beloved yellow Labrador, Melakai, a life-companion who had walked alongside him for over a decade. The two had made the move from their native Fresno to San Diego when Andre was just 18 years old. Andre and Melakai were so close that when his faithful, canine friend passed away of old age in March, Andre made a vow to never get another dog, a promise that he kept until he spotted a frightened, lone pup in the back of the stolen vehicle that Andre was called to investigate. Following protocol, Andre immediately took the dog to the San Diego Humane Society hoping that his owners would reclaim him. Yet when three weeks went by and nobody had come to pick up the dog, Andre knew exactly what to do. He adopted the pup, took him home and gave him a name worthy of the adversities the dog had overcome: Victor. The two have been best friends ever since. ❤️ Andre has been with the San Diego Police Department for four years. As a Police Officer II, he patrols the streets of the Central Division. #SDServes #FeelGoodFriday #yellowlab @sdhumanesociety @sandiegopd

A post shared by City of San Diego (@thecityofsandiego) on

1:28 a.m.

During his closed-door testimony to House impeachment investigators last week, David Holmes, a counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, said hearing U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland call President Trump from the middle of a Kyiv restaurant was "an extremely distinctive experience in my foreign service career."

The House released the Holmes transcript Monday night, and he is expected to attend a public impeachment hearing on Thursday. Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor first discussed the overheard Trump-Sondland call during his public testimony last week.

The call took place July 26, one day after Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and requested he launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a baseless conspiracy theory about Ukraine meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Holmes said Sondland placed the call to Trump through a switchboard, and he overheard Trump ask if the Ukrainians were going to "do the investigation." Sondland responded, "He's gonna do it."

Holmes testified that he was shocked by Sondland's brazenness. "I've never seen anything like this, someone calling the president from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language," he said. "There's just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly." Holmes said most of the local mobile networks are "owned by Russian companies, or have significant stakes in those. We generally assume that mobile communications in Ukraine are being monitored."

Click here to read the entire transcript. Catherine Garcia

12:07 a.m.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) probably made some important points on Monday night's Hardball about President Trump's alleged bribery, high crimes, and/or misdemeanors through subverting U.S. law and government apparatuses in service of his personal political benefit. But nobody will remember his point because in the middle of his interview with Chris Matthews, this happened:

Did Swalwell really submit to a massive attack of flatulence on live national television that was so loud his lapel microphone picked it up? He says no.

Hardball briefly toyed with turning the entire kerfuffle into an audio version of he-who-smelt-it-dealt-it.

But cooler minds prevailed. Or something.

Luckily, as we all know, conspiracy theorists are often persuaded by plausible explanations. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads