November 21, 2019

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) traveled to Europe with three aides from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 2018, on a $63,000 taxpayer-funded investigative trip, and Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani arrested last month on federal campaign finance and conspiracy charges, helped arrange meetings and calls for his trip, The Daily Beast reports, citing Parnas lawyer Ed MacMahaon and congressional records. Nunes aide Derek Harvey was involved in the Parnas meeting, and he accompanied Nunes to Europe along with fellow aides Scott Glabe and George Pappas.

At the time of the trip, Nunes was outgoing chairman of the House Intelligence Committee — he is now the committee's top Republican and lead voice in the public impeachment hearings. Nunes was visiting Europe as part of his investigation into the origins of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia and President Trump's campaign. During the period Nunes was in Europe, Giuliani was in the middle of his ultimately successful campaign to oust U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch, a plot Parnas and partner Igor Fruman were also involved in, according to the federal indictment.

Parnas "believed that what he was doing was furtherance of the president's and thus our national interests," said Joseph Bondy, a member of Parnas' legal team. "President Trump's recent and regrettable disavowal of Mr. Parnas has caused him to rethink his involvement and the true reasons for his having been recruited to participate in the President's activities. Mr. Parnas is prepared to testify completely and accurately about his involvement in the President and Rudy Giuliani's quid pro quo demands of Ukraine." Read more at The Daily Beast. Peter Weber

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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