August 28, 2019

Bedbugs.

The New York Times has an infestation, and one of its conservative columnists is getting slammed — even by President Trump — for complaining about being called a bedbug by a guy on Twitter. And after Trump spent a not insignificant portion of his taxpayer-funded trip to Biarritz, France, doing a hard sell on hosting world leaders at his private Doral golf resort outside Miami, people rediscovered that the Trump Organization settled a lawsuit in 2017 with a guest who said his face, back, and arms had been devoured by bedbugs at the Doral's luxury Jack Nicklaus Villa in 2016.

The confidential bedbug settlement is real, but on Twitter, Trump insisted — twice — that the bedbugs were fake.

Well, you know what they say about people with verminous properties throwing tweets...

"Investigators never found bedbugs" among the Doral's "lengthy history of health-code violations," The Washington Post reports. "But the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has discovered numerous problems in recent years," ranging from "minor complaints such as dirty kitchen appliances, to more egregious violations such as live roaches near ovens and food preparation areas."

It's not just the Doral — New York health inspectors found mice "filth flies," and roaches in Trump Tower's food areas in recent years, The Daily Beast reported. "Trump Tower's roach situation, though, paled in comparison to the infestation at Doral, where Florida authorities reported 524 health-code violations from 2013 to 2018."

Those violations included "approximately 20-25 live roaches ... in the kitchen food prep area and behind a utensil table inside a wall crack" in 2015, plus "live, small flying insects" and other food-related issues. The violations were so egregious that inspectors recommended the state temporarily shut down the Doral kitchen, though it's not clear anything happened other than an $800 fine.

"Despite the resort's recurring issues, however, investigators found almost no problems during a May inspection," the Post notes. Read more about the Doral's various health code violations at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

1:48 p.m.

Who was the Zodiac killer? Was Homer a real person? Why did Spartacus turn back? Adding to the questions that may haunt mankind until the end of history is this: Who is the third of the three people following Ben Affleck's finsta?

On Thursday, Kelsey Weekman of In the Know stumbled upon what sure seems to be Affleck's private Instagram account (a.k.a. his "fake Instagram," or "finsta") as she was "checking to see" if he and his new girlfriend, Ana de Armas, "follow each other." While she was looking, Weekman "found a suspicious account" that de Armas followed named "Ben," which has the user name "PositiveAttitudeHunting." Hmmmmm!

But here's where things get interesting: Only two people aside from de Armas have permission to follow the private account. Fortune's Emma Hinchliffe managed to figure out that one of them is Affleck's ex, Jennifer Garner:

Which raises the question: Who is the third?! If you know, please tell Kelsey Weekman so we can all finally find some resolution. Jeva Lange

1:04 p.m.

Some Republicans have dismissed former Defense Secretary James Mattis' searing rebuke of President Trump — but not Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Mattis on Wednesday came out with a stunning rebuke of his former boss in The Atlantic, declaring that Trump "tries to divide us." Trump hit back on Twitter, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Fox News accused Mattis of "buying into a narrative that I think is, quite frankly, unfair" to Trump. Other Republicans didn't seem to put a lot of weight in the comments, with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) telling CNN Mattis is "free to express" his opinion and Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) telling NBC the comments weren't "especially helpful" but that he can "express himself" if he wants.

But then there was Murkowski, who told reporters she's "really thankful" for Mattis' "true, and honest and necessary" comments.

"When I saw General Mattis' comments yesterday, I felt like perhaps we are getting to a point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up," she said, CNN reports. Asked if she can still support Trump, Murkowski told reporters, "I am struggling with it," adding, "I have struggled with it for a long time, I think you know that."

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah.) similarly told Politico that Mattis is an "American patriot of extraordinary service and sacrifice and great judgment," and he called the statement "powerful and stunning." Brendan Morrow

12:49 p.m.

What seems like a subtle statement of support for Defense Secretary Mark Esper is actually a bit bigger deal for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

It's rare for McConnell to publicly criticize or even offer much advice to President Trump, including when it comes to the many people Trump has fired throughout his term. But that changed on Thursday as Trump reportedly weighs firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper, with McConnell burying a compliment for the secretary alongside one for Attorney General William Barr.

In a tweet, McConnell declared Trump and Americans "are very well-served by the expert advice and principled leadership" of Barr and Esper. "I appreciate their dedicated work at this difficult time for our nation," he continued.

The message comes after Esper broke with Trump's threat to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, which would bring the military into cities to forcefully end protests. Still, Esper did reverse his decision to send troops out of Washington, D.C., Wednesday night after reportedly angering the White House. The American Conservative's Curt Mills reported that Esper may be fired "as soon as today," though Trump has often dragged out the removal of even Cabinet members he openly despised. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:54 a.m.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) knows a thing or two about protests, and today's are like nothing he's ever seen before.

Lewis, a civil rights leader and longtime congressmember, appeared on CBS This Morning on Thursday to discuss the killing of George Floyd in police custody and the protests incited by years of police brutality against black people. While the video of Floyd crying out "I can't breathe" "made me so sad" and "made me cry," Lewis told host Gayle King, this ongoing movement gives him "hope that we're on our way to greater change."

King then asked Lewis if today's protests "look and feel different to you," given that he was a leader in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. "This feels and looks so different. It is so much more massive and all inclusive," Lewis said, noting that "people from all over the world [are] taking to the streets o the roadways, to stand up, to speak up, to speak out, to do what I call getting in trouble."

Lewis also gave an update on his health after undergoing treatment for stage IV pancreatic cancer. "My health is improving. I have a wonderful doctor and nurse, and everybody taking good care of me. I'm very hopeful and very optimistic," Lewis said. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:45 a.m.

Rudy Giuliani just made an appearance on Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan, and to say it went off the rails would be an understatement.

President Trump's personal lawyer participated in what turned out to be a completely bonkers interview on the show on Thursday, which started somewhat normally only to get heated as Morgan grilled Giuliani on Trump tweeting that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Giuliani claimed Trump didn't quote a "nutty, horrible racist" on "purpose," but Morgan wasn't buying it, repeatedly calling Giuliani out and asking him why Trump is using "inflammatory language" on Twitter.

After many minutes going back and forth on this, the interview finally went fully out of control as Giuliani screamed over Morgan's news coverage and the two traded insults, with Giuliani blasting Morgan as a "liar" and a "failed journalist" after Morgan asked him, "What happened to you, Rudy?" Morgan proceeded to label Giuliani "deranged," "unhinged," and "completely barking mad."

As if the whole thing wasn't chaotic enough, they then spent the end of the interview litigating whether Giuliani dropped an F-bomb during the conversation; Giuliani claimed he didn't say live on the air that Morgan "f--ed up," but considering a bleep was added to the Twitter clip posted by Good Morning Britain, the network obviously wasn't convinced.

Watch just a small piece of the wild journey below, with more on YouTube. Brendan Morrow

9:30 a.m.

Drew Brees has issued an apology for comments he now says "missed the mark."

The New Orleans Saints quarterback faced criticism this week after saying, while discussing NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America." His remarks immediately sparked backlash especially amid the ongoing George Floyd protests, with LeBron James questioning how Brees still doesn't "understand why [Colin Kaepernick] was kneeling on one knee," adding it has "nothing to do with the disrespect" of the flag.

Brees has now apologized on Instagram to "anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday."

"In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country," he said. "They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy."

Brees wrote that he stands "with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality" and insisted he has "ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy." He concluded by saying he recognizes he "should do less talking and more listening ... and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen."

New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis on CNN praised Brees' apology, calling it a "model for all of America." Brendan Morrow

9:30 a.m.

Around 1.88 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to numbers released Thursday by the Department of Labor.

The number, in line with economists' expectations, brings the total number of people who've filed new jobless claims to 42.6 million over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also continues a downward trend that could signify the worst of the coronavirus economic crash is over. At the unemployment boom's peak in late March, 6.9 million people filed claims.

Still, 21.5 million people filed continuing claims — unemployment claims filed for at least two weeks in a row — in a sign that many people aren't getting their jobs back even as parts of the economy reopen. Kathryn Krawczyk

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