April 2, 2020

You may have missed it among any (poorly timed) April Fools' Day pranks, but Wednesday was Census Day, that time of year where your residence starts counting for the 2020 census. Full Frontal's Samantha Bee did not forget. On Wednesday's show, filmed in the woods, Bee said — no doubt accurately, in many cases — that you've probably received a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau already and dropped it "in your mail quarantine pile."

"If you open it, you'll find an ID code that, for the first time, lets you fill out the census online," Bee said. "It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes — and I do know that you have 10 minutes right now." Since the census is so "incredibly important to fill out," Bee said, she commissioned a song from rapper and filmmaker TT the Artist to explain why, with help from Full Frontal animators Daniel Spenser and Cassidy Routh.

The Census Bureau is legal compelled to finish collecting information about every American by Dec. 31, but it suspended field operations two weeks ago to assess the safest way forward amid the coronavirus pandemic. If people fill in their census forms online, fewer census takers will have to start knocking on doors starting in mid-April or May. As of the March 31, more than 38 percent of households had already answered the census questions. In case you didn't watch TT the Artist's song, the decennial census determines the number of U.S. House seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, plus the amount of money from the federal government. Peter Weber

2:43 p.m.

The publisher of The New York Times has addressed staffers' "disappointment and hurt" over a recent op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), while the editorial page editor continues to defend its publication.

The Times faced backlash on Wednesday both internally and externally after publishing an op-ed by the Republican senator titled "Send in the Troops," in which Cotton argues President Trump should send the U.S. military into cities in an "overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers." Times staffers openly rebelled against the decision, with many tweeting the same message: "Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger."

A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, addressed the controversy in a note to employees on Thursday, per CNN's Oliver Darcy, writing that "for many, pride in" the Times' work has been "overshadowed by the disappointment and hurt felt" over Cotton's piece. But Sulzberger defended the decision to publish it as being made in the "spirit" of "openness to a range of opinions, even those we may disagree with."

James Bennet, Times editorial page editor, also published a piece on Thursday defending the decision, writing, "Cotton and others in power are advocating the use of the military, and I believe the public would be better equipped to push back if it heard the argument and had the chance to respond to the reasoning. Readers who might be inclined to oppose Cotton's position need to be fully aware of it, and reckon with it, if they hope to defeat it.

Cotton himself, meanwhile, is heaping praise on the Times for running his piece, on Thursday saying he's happy the editors "stood up to the woke progressive mob in their own newsroom."

According to CNN, Sulzberger's note "did not quell concerns from staffers," with one employee saying it failed to "address what many felt were factual inaccuracies in the Cotton Op-Ed and its incitement of violence" and was "demoralizing." Brendan Morrow

2:28 p.m.

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has a recent history lesson for President Trump.

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis denounced Trump on Wednesday after his militaristic response to nationwide protesters, prompting Trump to tweet about how he fired the retired general. Except as Kelly reminded Trump in an interview with The Washington Post, that's not exactly how it went down.

"The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation," Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, told the Post. "The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused. The president tweeted a very positive tweet about Jim until he started to see on Fox News their interpretation of his letter. Then he got nasty. Jim Mattis is a honorable man."

Mattis submitted his resignation at the end of 2018 with a decisively passive aggressive letter. Trump, apparently not actually reading the letter, praised Mattis at first before actually figuring out what the defense secretary had said.

In a statement to The Atlantic, Mattis declared Trump was "the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try." He then sided with protesters demanding "equal justice under law," and went so far as to compare the White House's mission under Trump to the Nazi slogan of "Divide and Conquer." Kathryn Krawczyk

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

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