August 13, 2019

President Trump provided soundbites like it was 2016 (or, really, any year since) on Tuesday when speaking with reporters as he prepared to board Marine One.

Over the roar of the chopper, Trump re-upped a baseless conspiracy theory tying former President Bill Clinton to Jeffrey Epstein's death, criticized Chris Cuomo's recent outburst, and gave an ambivalent answer to a question about the situation in Hong Kong.

When asked about the protests in Hong Kong, Trump said he just wants the "very tough situation" to work out for "everybody, including China, by the way" and hopes "nobody gets killed." That answer may seem wishy-washy, but it appears to be in line with his strategy on the matter — Trump reportedly told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the U.S. would tone down its criticism of China regarding its approach to Hong Kong, as Washington and Beijing try to iron out a trade deal. Still, that's not how everyone wanted him to respond.

The president also continued to tout the Clinton-Epstein conspiracy, arguing that investigators need to figure out whether Clinton, who frequently flew on Epstein's plane, ever went to the alleged sex trafficker's private island in the Caribbean. "If you find that out, you're going to know a lot," Trump said after being asked if he thought the Clintons were involved in Epstein's death in his Manhattan jail cell.

Trump was relatively coy with those answers, but he was anything but vague when discussing CNN's Cuomo, who was involved in an altercation on Monday evening after a man called him "Fredo." In Trump's mind, Cuomo wasn't actually acting like Michael Corleone's frustrated older brother in The Godfather, but a "total out of control animal." Tim O'Donnell

9:04 p.m.

A satellite image captured Thursday shows activity at a rocket launching site North Korea had previously dismantled, CNN reports.

The image of Sohae Satellite Launching Station, obtained by CNN and analyzed by experts, shows a large shipping container at the facility's test stand, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, said. This was the first time analysts have seen this container, he added, and it could indicate that North Korea will soon start conducting engine tests at the site again. These engines would be used to power satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, CNN reports.

While at the NATO summit in London on Tuesday, Trump mused that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "really likes sending rockets up, doesn't he? That's why I call him Rocket Man." Trump also said he has a "good relationship" with Kim, but his remarks still irked Choe Son Hui, North Korea's first vice-foreign minister. North Korean state media reports Choe declared that "if any language and expressions stoking the atmosphere of confrontation are used once again on purpose at a crucial moment as now, that must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard." Catherine Garcia

7:38 p.m.

Several West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation employees have been suspended following the leak of a photo showing more than 30 members of a basic training class giving a Nazi salute, WCHS reports.

Basic Training Class #18 was held Oct. 21 through Nov. 27, and WCHS recently obtained a copy of the photo, with blurred faces, from the office of Gov. Jim Justice (R). In a statement released Thursday, Justice said he has ordered "the termination of all those that are found to be involved in this conduct. This will not be tolerated on my watch, within the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation or within any agency of state government."

Jeff Sandy, the cabinet secretary for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, sent a letter on Wednesday to employees of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, condemning the photo. "It is distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate," he said. Sandy also announced that Betsy Jividen, the commissioner of the state Division of Corrections, has directed all copies of the photo "be destroyed, sent to this office, or otherwise taken out of circulation to keep its harm from spreading." Catherine Garcia

5:12 p.m.

If you want to get shredded like Star-Lord, why not cut out the middleman?

Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World star Chris Pratt has opened his own Amazon storefront hawking a wide variety of health and fitness products, including rowing machines, boxing gloves, and protein powders. Unfortunately for those who really want to get motivated for their next run, the lineup of products doesn't currently include any live dinosaurs.

Read more at People. Scott Meslow

4:40 p.m.

Earlier this year, superhero fans faced the terrifying possibility of a world where the seemingly limitless roster of Marvel Cinematic Universe superheroes didn't include Spider-Man, who was caught up in the messy web of a rights and profit-sharing dispute between Sony and Disney.

Spider-Man has since been added back into the Marvel fold — and as it turns out, the hero in this story is none other than Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland, who says he sealed the deal by getting drunk and crying in a phone call with Disney CEO Bob Iger.

For a superhero, it's an admittedly unconventional strategy for saving the day, but hey, who can argue with the results? Read more at Indiewire. Scott Meslow

4:35 p.m.

Congratulations to Emma Stone on her brand-new rock!

The Oscar-winning La La Land actress is engaged to Dave McCary, a segment director she met while filming a sketch for Saturday Night Live back in 2017, reports CNN. Who says workplace romances between attractive, talented people who spend a whole day making each other laugh can't work out?

Read more at CNN. Scott Meslow

4:16 p.m.

Working for Infowars' Alex Jones is about as nutty an experience as you'd expect, according to one former employee.

Josh Owens, an ex-video editor for Infowars, has written a piece in The New York Times Magazine describing bizarre behind-the-scenes details about working for the fringe conspiracy theorist, such as that Jones allegedly once dumped a bag containing an employee's pet fish in the trash, "wildly" stabbed a moldy water cooler, ripped blinds off the wall, yelled at employees to hit him, regularly removed his shirt, and "threatened to send out a memo banning laughter in the office," with his reasoning apparently being that "we're at war."

Owens also describes an incident in which Jones allegedly took employees to a private ranch in Texas to shoot guns and "after eating a few handfuls of jalapeño chips, he picked up an AR-15 and accidentally fired it in my direction." A bullet "hit the ground about 10 feet away from me," Owens says, prompting one employee to go off on Jones, who "claimed he had intentionally fired the gun as a joke — as if this were any better."

Throughout the piece, Owens expresses regret for working for Jones, especially because he recalls how doing so involved making up stories to fit Jones' narrative. "The information did not meet our expectations, so we made it up, preying on the vulnerable and feeding the prejudices and fears of Jones's audience," Owens writes, adding that "we ignored certain facts, fabricated others and took situations out of context to fit our narrative."

Jones responded to the piece by telling Mediaite it's "a compendium of lies, disinformation, and half-truths." Brendan Morrow

3:39 p.m.

The only thing standing between you and your Christmas presents could be President Trump's face.

Trump's 2020 campaign has rolled out its holiday gift collection featuring a literal "Trump train" carved from wood and a MAGA hat ornament. And before you hand them off to your loved ones, you can slap on some wrapping paper patterned with Trump in a Santa hat, available for just $30 a roll on the Trump campaign website.

If you're looking for something a little more subtle, there are two other wrapping papers without Trump's mug printed all over them. Oh, and speaking of mugs, there's a particularly interesting one of those as well. Kathryn Krawczyk

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