February 11, 2020

The Hunt will be coming soon to a theater near you after all.

Universal last year scrapped the planned September release of its political satire The Hunt after controversy erupted over reports about its plot, which The Hollywood Reporter at the time wrote involved elites hunting "deplorables." Ads for the film were pulled in the wake of two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, and President Trump even went after it on Twitter, writing that it was "made in order to inflame and cause chaos." This was all in spite of the fact that not only had no one seen the movie, but it appeared from the trailer the so-called "deplorables" were actually the heroes.

Six months later, Universal announced Tuesday it's releasing The Hunt in theaters on March 13, dropping the news along with a new trailer that references the controversy and asks viewers to "decide for yourself." The film was recently shown to critics, one of whom, io9's Germain Lussier, writes that it actually "isn't pro-liberal, nor is pro-conservative. If anything, it's anti-both of them." Insider's Jason Guerrasio similarly writes that the focus of the movie is "not liberals versus conservatives" but that it's instead a "sensationalized look at what happens when things are completely blown out of proportion," and "the politics angle is a complete ruse within it."

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, producer Jason Blum said that "none of us were interested in taking sides with this movie," while co-writer Damon Lindelof described the film as having been "misunderstood" last year.

"We think that people who see it are going to enjoy it and this may be a way to shine a light on a very serious problem in the country, which is that we're divided," Lindelof said. "And we think the movie may actually, ironically, bring people together." Brendan Morrow

9:34 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly tapped Dr. David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to lead the U.S. government's COVID-19 vaccine efforts.

Biden selected Kessler to help lead Operation Warp Speed, replacing Dr. Moncef Slaoui, The New York Times and CNN reported on Friday. Kessler previously served as commissioner of the FDA from 1990 through 1997, having originally been appointed by former President George H.W. Bush. He also serves as the co-chair of the Biden transition's COVID-19 task force.

"Dr. Kessler became a trusted adviser to the Biden campaign and to President-elect Biden at the beginning of the pandemic, and has probably briefed Biden 50 or 60 times since March," Anita Dunn, co-chair of Biden's transition team, told The New York Times. "When staff gets asked, 'What do the doctors say?,' we know that David Kessler is one of the doctors that President-elect Biden expects us to have consulted."

Kessler will be taking over as lead of Operation Warp Speed as the federal government seeks to speed up distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States after the Trump administration failed to meet its goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. According to the Times, Kessler "warned Mr. Biden that Operation Warp Speed was not prepared for getting the shots into people's arms" in the fall. Slaoui will reportedly become a consultant to Operation Warp Speed after previously serving as chief adviser. Brendan Morrow

8:46 a.m.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, in his first public comments since the Jan. 6 violent siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Trump, said Thursday that law enforcement has arrested more than 100 people in connection with the assault and is aware of "an extensive amount of concerning online chatter" ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration.

Most of those arrested so far have been far-right militants, off-duty police, retired military personnel, GOP officials, QAnon adherents, and white supremacists. For example, the man photographed carrying a Confederate battle flag through the Capitol, Kevin Seefried, and his son, Hunter Seefried, surrendered to the FBI in Delaware on Thursday, the Justice Department said.

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Authorities also arrested "liberal activist" John Sullivan on Thursday, making him, Politico says, "the first person to be charged who appears to have been active in liberal causes." Sullivan, who filmed the siege, claims he was just following the rioters as a "journalist," but the FBI said his own video showed him to be a booster of the lawlessness and even an active participant.

Trump supporters, including Rudy Giuliani, and conservative media outlets pointed to Sullivan's arrest to bolster their counterfactual claim that "antifa" or Black Lives Matter were actually behind the assault on the Capitol. But "even before his arrest, left wing activists had described concerns in that community, going back some time, that Sullivan was a provocateur working with others, including his brother James, who has ties to the Proud Boys and runs a pro-Trump organization," Marcy Wheeler notes at EmptyWheel.

"Sullivan's presence in the Capitol, and his previous record of anti-Trump activism, has been the focus of frenzied attention in the right-wing media," Robert Mackey reports at The Intercept, while "left-wing organizers have been keen to stress that they ejected Sullivan from their ranks months ago." Since adopting the nom de guerre "Activist John" last summer, Mackey notes, Johnson has been blacklisted by "left-wing organizers associated with Black Lives Matter and antifascism in Utah, California, and the Pacific Northwest" who say he's "either a right-wing infiltrator or a dangerously naive amateur." Peter Weber

8:25 a.m.

Federal prosecutors in a new court filing reportedly point to "strong evidence" that rioters who stormed the Capitol building last week aimed to "capture and assassinate elected officials."

The prosecutors included this assessment while asking a judge to detain Jacob Chansley, one of the men who was arrested and charged following the deadly Capitol riot, Reuters reports.

"Strong evidence, including Chansley's own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government," the prosecutors wrote.

Supporters of President Trump stormed the Capitol building on the day Congress was meeting to certify President-elect Joe Biden's election win, leaving five people dead. Trump was subsequently impeached for a second time for "incitement of insurrection" after delivering a speech calling on his supporters to march to the Capitol building.

The prosecutors in the filing reportedly wrote that the charges against Chansley "involve active participation in an insurrection attempting to violently overthrow the United States government," adding that the "insurrection is still in progress." They also revealed that Chansley, who was photographed wearing horns at Vice President Mike Pence's desk, allegedly left a note for Pence that warned, "it's only a matter of time, justice is coming," Reuters reports.

The filing, Politico writes, "spells out clearly the government's view of an ongoing 'insurrection movement' that is reaching a potential climax as Biden's inauguration approaches." Brendan Morrow

6:12 a.m.

"As if there wasn't enough drama in Washington, there are now reports that President Trump's relationship with Rudy Giuliani is in trouble," Jimmy Fallon said on Tuesday's Tonight Show. "Things are so bad that Trump is telling his staff not to pay Rudy's legal fees" or reimburse his travel expenses without Trump's approval. "Rudy seemed blindsided by the decision, although when hair dye is constantly leaking into your eyes, it's hard to see anything coming," he joked. "At least Rudy racked up a ton of frequent liar miles."

As his term ends in toxic shambles, "these are sad times for Trump, he wanted to listen to 'Everybody Hurts' but he just got banned from Spotify," Fallon joked. "Trump can't even go to his own bathroom without getting depressed. His hair dye reminds him of Rudy Giuliani, his Q-tips remind him of Mike Pence, and his toilet reminds him of Twitter."

"I imagine Trump is sitting in the Oval Office just writing angry notes on paper, crumpling them up, and just yelling 'Tweet!" James Corden said at The Late Late Show. "With Giuliani on the outs, Trump is looking for a new lawyer to defend him at his impeachment trial," and he's evidently landed on John Eastman, who makes Rudy look and sound sane, he said. "At least Eastman is going to do all the work pro bono — he doesn't know that yet, but he is."

"They say Trump isn't even taking Rudy's calls anymore," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "But this is what Trump does: Even if you don't jump ship, sooner or later he'll throw you off it. Rudy Giuliani traveled around the world, he went from being America's Mayor to the parking lot of a dildo store trying to dig up dirt for Trump. The only dirt he could find was coming out of his hair."

Poor Giuliani, "now he's going to have to make money on the side bottling Uncle Rudy's Original Skull Syrup," Stephen Colbert joked at The Late Show. He made a Giuliani fart joke, and grimaced at taxpayers forking out $144,000 so Jared and Ivanka's Secret Service detail can go to the bathroom in a rented apartment. "That is some expensive cr-p — which, I've got to say, is really on-brand for Ivanka," he joked. "These are men and women who literally would take a bullet for you. The least you could do is let them take a leak." Peter Weber

3:52 a.m.

The Trump administration executed Corey Johnson on Thursday night, after the Supreme Court lifted stays on both Johnson's execution and another one scheduled for Friday. Both Johnson and the other inmate, Dustin Higgs, tested positive for COVID-19, and their lawyers had argued that the execution drug pentobarbital would cause excruciating pain on the COVID-infected lungs. Johnson's lawyers also pointed to evidence that he was severely mentally disabled. The court's three liberal justices voted to halt the execution.

Johnson was convicted of killing seven people in a bloody 1992 drug war in Richmond, Virginia. He was pronounced dead at 11:34 p.m., The Associated Press reports, and reporters heard clapping and whistling from a room reserved for the relatives of his victims. What sounded like praying was heard in a room for Johnson's family members. His last words, aimed in their direction, were "love you." He apologized to his victims and their families in a separate statement.

Johnson is the 12th federal inmate put to death since President Trump and former Attorney General William Barr ended a 17-year halt on federal capital punishment in July. President-elect Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated in less than a week, is opposed to capital punishment and has pledged to reinstate the moratorium.

Higgs' fate is still up in the air due to another legal dispute involving a federal law that requires inmates to be executed using the techniques approved in the states where they were sentenced. Maryland, which convicted Higgs in 2000 for the 1996 killings of Tamika Black, Tanji Jackson, and Mishann Chinn, abolished the death penalty in 2013. An appellate court has scheduled a hearing to consider the legal quandary for Jan. 27, a week after Biden is sworn in. The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to step in and overrule that court so Trump can get his 13th and final execution. Peter Weber

3:03 a.m.

A bipartisan group of three House members said Thursday that they will nominate Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman for the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor awarded by Congress, for facing off against a mob of rioters in the Capitol during the Jan. 6 siege and potentially saving the Senate.

"He's a hero!" said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who is introducing the resolution with Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). The Senate started evacuating a minute after Goodman lured a crowd of rioters away from a nearby door to the chamber, according to a video by HuffPost's Igor Bobic.

Goodman served in Iraq in the Army's 101st Airborne Division, but little else is known about him and he "isn't saying anything at all publicly — not to reporters, not on social media," The Associated Press reports.

But Goodman isn't the only officer who showed heroism during the mob siege, and several D.C. Metropolitan Police reinforcements involved in the battle at the West Terrace told their harrowing stories to The Washington Post. One Capitol Police officer was killed by the rioters, and nearly 60 D.C. police officers and an unknown number of Capitol Police were injured.

D.C. officer Michael Fanone, 40, was filmed being bludgeoned with metal pipes and flag poles after the West Terrace mob dragged him down the entrance stairs. "We were battling 15,000 people," not 50, he told the Post. "It looked like a medieval battle scene." After the mob hit him with a stun gun, the Post adds, "Fanone suffered a mild heart attack and drifted in and out of consciousness."

Officer Daniel Hodges, 32, was captured in another viral video with his head being smashed in a door. Rioters tried to gouge his eyes out before he even got to the West Terrace tunnel, he told the Post. "The zealotry of these people is absolutely unreal," he said, adding that he didn't want to draw his gun "because I knew they had guns — we had been seizing guns all day" — and "we would have lost" in a firefight.

Rows of bludgeoned officers from D.C., then surrounding jurisdictions, fended off the rioters in hand-to-hand combat for hours. The West Terrace was "one of the few places where police prevented rioters from breaking through," the Post reports. "Had those rioters succeeded, authorities said, thousands more people could have poured into the Capitol, with possible catastrophic consequences." Read more war stories, and watch the disturbing videos, at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

Artist John Deckert has found a way to honor frontline workers, one portrait at a time.

While working from his home in Santa Rosa, California, he started thinking about the essential workers who did not have this same luxury. Deckert got out his paint, brushes, and canvas, and first painted a deliveryman, followed by his mailman and a cashier.

Now, Deckert is focused on painting the nurses at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. He asked emergency room nurse Sheila Smith for photos of her colleagues, which he uses as inspirations for each one of his portraits. Once he is finished with a painting, Deckert gives it to his subject as a gift. Smith told NBC Bay Area her portrait is "one of my most prized possessions now" and is "a bright light in a really hard season of being a nurse."

Deckert said the portraits are an acknowledgment of the hard work and sacrifice shown by frontline workers, and a way for him to say thanks. "You shared what skill you have," he told NBC Bay Area, "and I shared mine." Catherine Garcia

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