November 30, 2020

Since Election Day, President Trump's political operation has raised more than $150 million, with much of the money coming from small-time donors who tend to get fired up when they believe Trump is under attack, people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.

In the wake of the election, the Trump campaign has sent roughly 500 pitches to donors, the Post reports, with the messages including demands to end voter fraud and a plea from Vice President Mike Pence to join the "Election Defense Task Force." The Trump campaign's website states that the Official Election Defense Fund is soliciting the money, but this account doesn't exist, the Post says, and the fundraising requests are actually coming from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee benefiting the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee.

As of Nov. 18, a third entity is also receiving money from the joint fundraising committee: Save America, Trump's new leadership PAC. In the fine print of the most recent fundraising letters, it says 75 percent of every contribution will go to Save America, with the remaining 25 percent going to help with the RNC's operating expenses. Trump set up Save America in early November, and will be able to tap into its funds when he is out of office, the Post reports. There aren't many limitations as to how leadership PAC money can be spent, and Trump could use it for events at his properties or to pay for travel and personal expenses, the Post says.

The Trump machine is raising more money now than ever before — the Trump Make America Great Again Committee's previous best month was September, when it brought in $81 million — and that's too much for some GOP donors, like Dan Eberhart. "Trump is making hay while the sun is shining," Eberhart told the Post. "He's taking advantage of all the free media coverage to pay off his campaign debt and fill his coffers for whatever comes next. I would rather give to Romney 2012 than Trump 2020 at this point." Catherine Garcia

5:19 p.m.

Conservative TV host Greg Kelly, who once complained that the impeachment of Donald Trump was racist against "white folk," was put on the defensive over his choice of pants on Thursday after posting a photo with said former president.

"Those are BUGLE BOY jeans I'm wearing," the Newsmax host had tweeted, drawing attention to his multi-pocketed khakis.

"Honestly one of the most f--ked up pairs of pants I've ever seen," one horrified onlooker wrote, while another observed, "It looks like a pair of cargo pants mated with some jodhpurs and its offspring got all of the worst jeans … er, um genes."

Kelly followed up by insisting that the pants were very expensive — "the truth is, they're BALMAIN (the most prestigious brand in PANTS)" — which just goes to show, you really can't buy good taste.

Read more at Newsweek. Jeva Lange

5:08 p.m.

As the dreaded Elon Musk-hosted Saturday Night Live episode draws nigh, the show is out with its first teaser.

"Let's find out just how live Saturday Night Live really is," Musk says in the clip. "I'm a wild card, so there's no telling what I might do." (The Atlantic claims Musk's "eccentricity is good fodder for sketch comedy," which is clearly … debatable).

While some SNL members have made their disdain clear, Pete Davidson said no one discussed the controversy when they took Musk out to dinner pre-show, as is tradition. "I just don't understand why this is the dude everyone's so freaked out about," Davidson said. "I was like, 'What did he do? He's just like a really wealthy businessman that makes, like, nerd s---.' I don't know. He's really nice. I'm excited."

Read more at Entertainment Weekly. Jeva Lange

4:59 p.m.

Remember that time when everyone (and The Daily Mail) was so mad about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry trying to trademark "Sussex Royal," and in doing so, cruelly placing Queen Elizabeth "in an invidious position, given her long-held conviction of refusing to allow working members of the family to profit from their positions"?

Well, People reports that the British monarch has since started selling Sandringham-branded beer, brewed from plants grown on her Norfolk estate, as well as a Royal Collection Trust gin, which retails for $41 a bottle and will "help preserve the Queen's extensive art collection."

Writes Celebitchy, "HOW GAUCHE! How tacky! I assume all of the royal reporters are up in arms about how dreadful it is that the Queen is monetizing the Crown in such a disgusting and cheesy way."

Read more at Celebitchy and People. Jeva Lange

3:53 p.m.

As the IRS deals with a significant backlog, a new report suggests one factor is ... printers that don't work?

That's according to a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which said the Internal Revenue Service is having difficulty processing tax returns in part thanks to issues with broken printers and copiers, Politico reported on Friday.

During on-site walkthroughs of IRS offices, a "major concern that surfaced" was "the lack of working printers and copiers," with management estimating that as of the end of March, 42 percent of printers for workers involved with processing returns weren't usable, the report said.

IRS employees said "the only reason they could not use many of these devices is because they are out of ink or because the waste cartridge container is full," per the report. Evidently, the IRS' contract for the printers ended in September 2020, and while the agency subsequently entered into a new contract, employees said the "new contractor may not have been coming into the sites to replace the old printers due to COVID-19 concerns."

The IRS back in March delayed this year's tax filing about a month, which would give taxpayers more time to figure out what they owe in light of Congress' COVID-19 relief bill. But another issue, as the The Washington Post reported, was that the agency has been grappling with a "mounting backlog" of tax returns that need to be processed. According to the new inspector general report, "more than 8.3 million individual tax returns and transactions remained to be processed" as of the end of 2020 — and while the agency has also had other problems including staffing issues, a lack of functioning printers and copiers has contributed "to the inability to reduce backlogs." Brendan Morrow

2:21 p.m.

If George Lucas is Seth Rogen's only hope of surviving the end of the world, he's in trouble.

Rogen during an appearance on Conan O'Brien's podcast described a bizarre conversation he had with George Lucas back in 2012, during which Rogen says the Star Wars creator started talking as if he legitimately believed the world was going to end that year.

"A question that still haunts me to this day — and again, I think I know the answer — is, was he joking?" Rogen said. "I really don't think ... it did not appear he was joking."

Rogen and his producing partner Evan Goldberg apparently jokingly went along with the end-of-the-world talk, asking Lucas if they could get a seat on his spaceship to escape the planet, only to have that request immediately shot down.

"He was like, 'No,'" Rogen said. "Which, again, it makes me think he wasn't joking, because if you were joking, you would just say yes to at least placate us by granting our wish to go on the spaceship. But no, he said no!"

Rogen added that even all these years later, he's still "confounded and plagued by that story." The actor actually previously described this encounter closer to when it happened, and a Lucasfilm representative at the time clarified that Lucas was "not serious" about thinking the world was going to end — a statement presumably issued while Lucas tinkered with his spaceship in the background just in case. Brendan Morrow

1:03 p.m.

Four former Minneapolis police officers, including Derek Chauvin, have been indicted on civil rights charges over the death of George Floyd.

The Justice Department said Friday a grand jury indictment charged Chauvin, who was convicted on murder charges after kneeling on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes during an arrest, with depriving Floyd of his constitutional right "to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer."

Former Minneapolis officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane were also charged for their roles in Floyd's death. Prosecutors said Thao and Kueng were charged with having "willfully failed to intervene to stop Chauvin's use of unreasonable force," and the indictment said all four defendants "willfully failed to aid" Floyd despite seeing him in need of medical attention, thereby depriving him of "his constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law."

Separately, Chauvin was also indicted on civil rights charges stemming from a 2017 incident, in which prosecutors said he held a Minneapolis teenager "by the throat and struck the teenager multiple times in the head with a flashlight."

These new charges, The New York Times noted, are separate both from state charges Thao, Kueng, and Lane previously faced, as well as separate from a civil investigation the Department of Justice has opened into the Minneapolis Police Department. Attorney General Merrick Garland last month said this probe would examine whether the department "engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing." Brendan Morrow

11:37 a.m.

Chinese officials promise a rocket that's falling toward Earth probably won't cause any harm.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Friday officials are "closely observing" the Long March 5B rocket booster that's expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere this weekend, The Washington Post reports. Part of the Chinese rocket is "tumbling out of control in orbit" following a launch, The New York Times writes, but researchers are still not completely sure where the debris will land.

"This is standard international practice," Wang said Friday, per the Post. "The probability of causing harm to aviation activities and the ground is extremely low."

Wang also said that most of the rocket's components will burn up during re-entry. The U.S. Air Force Space Track Project on Friday projected debris will crash in a desert outside of Mary, Turkmenistan — but researchers also warned that "the projected site could be wildly off-base," the Post writes. "Its exact entry point into the Earth's atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its re-entry which is expected around May 8," U.S. Space Command says.

NPR reports that scientists agree it's "unlikely" the booster "will actually hit someone," while adding that this still "doesn't mean there's no risk for humans." The Times may have put it best by writing, "You are almost certainly not going to be hit by a 10-story, 23-ton piece of a rocket hurtling back to Earth. That said, the chances are not zero."

Previously, debris from a Long March 5B rocket landed in Africa in 2020, leading NASA to criticize China.

"It was seemingly a successful launch, until we started getting information about a re-entry of a rocket body, a re-entry that was really dangerous," then-NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. "It flew over population centers and it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. It could have been extremely dangerous. We're really fortunate in the sense that it doesn't appear to have hurt anybody." Brendan Morrow

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