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April 16, 2019

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's new boss may have hired him because of his "excellent relationship" with several government departments, but Zinke says there's no conflict at all with him now working for a mining exploration and development company.

"I don't lobby," Zinke told The Associated Press. "I just follow the law, so I don't talk to anybody on the executive side or influence [anyone]." The Department of the Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of the country's land, water, wildlife, and energy. When Zinke stepped down as secretary in December, he was the subject of several investigations, including one involving his connection to a real estate deal with a company regulated by the Interior Department.

In his new role at Nevada-based U.S. Gold Corp, Zinke is a consultant and board member, earning $100,000 annually. The company's CEO, Edward Karr, told AP he's "excited to have Secretary Zinke move us forward" on two pending mining projects, including one in Nevada on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management; BLM is under the Interior Department.

President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 that prohibits executive-branch appointees from lobbying their former agency for at least five years after exiting the department, AP notes, and there are also criminal statutes banning certain communications between former senior federal officials and their old agencies for one to two years. Catherine Garcia

9:52 a.m.

This November, she'll be back.

Paramount Pictures on Thursday debuted the first trailer for Terminator: Dark Fate, which features the first footage of Linda Hamilton returning to the franchise as Sarah Connor for the first time since Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991. After starring in the first two films, Hamilton sat out the subsequent three installments, although she was technically heard via audio recordings in Terminator Salvation. Emilia Clarke starred as Sarah Connor in the 2015 reboot Terminator Genisys.

But Dark Fate is following in the recent Hollywood trend of ignoring a franchise's recent sequels — which Hamilton has called "very forgettable"— and going back to basics, as this film directly follows up on Judgment Day. The footage released on Thursday initially revolves around a set of new characters, including one named Grace played by Mackenzie Davis, who is revealed to be part machine. As Grace fights a liquid metal Terminator, an armed-to-the-teeth Sarah Connor makes her triumphant return to pitch in. There's also a new character played by Natalia Reyes, who Grace and Sarah Connor must keep alive.

Arnold Schwarzenegger also returns briefly in the trailer after previously starring in 2015's Terminator Genisys. Unlike that film, which gave away one of its main twists in the marketing, the trailer for Dark Fate is fairly light on plot, something that appears to be a deliberate choice. Schwarzenegger himself posted the trailer on Reddit and noted in the headline that it "doesn't give the movie away," leaving the implied "unlike last time" unsaid.

Dark Fate will hit theaters on November 1. Brendan Morrow

9:10 a.m.

President Trump on Thursday said that Rex Tillerson, who served as his secretary of state for more than a year, was ill-prepared and ill-equipped for the job.

Trump lashed out after Tillerson reportedly told lawmakers that Russian President Vladimir Putin out-prepared Trump in a 2017 meeting. "There was a discrepancy in preparation" between Trump and Putin that "created an unequal footing," Tillerson reportedly said.

In response, Trump claimed that it was Tillerson who was actually not only ill-prepared but ill-equipped for the job that Trump himself selected him for. He also claimed that Tillerson's account of the Putin meeting is false and that "I don't think Putin would agree" with the characterization.

Trump repeatedly praised Tillerson before and during his tenure as secretary of state, such as when in December 2016 he touted the former ExxonMobil CEO's "vast experience." That same month, The New York Times' Maggie Haberman reports Trump proudly told Mar-a-Lago guests that Tillerson has "just got that..." while doing a chef's kiss pose.

During an interview on CNN Thursday morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, asked for a comment about this tweet, said that Trump's 2017 meeting with Putin went "extremely well" but offered no explanation as to why Trump would hire an ill-prepared and ill-equipped person for his administration. Brendan Morrow

8:51 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May faced mounting calls to resign in a backlash against her latest Brexit plan, and multiple reports indicated she could step down as soon as Friday, Business Insider reported. The resignation of the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, on Wednesday night appeared to have left May with no way forward. Leadsom was scheduled to introduce May's new Brexit plan on Thursday but she said she could not support it because it could pave the way for a second referendum on whether the U.K. should leave the European Union at all, which she said would be "dangerously divisive." The turmoil came as the European Union starts parliamentary elections that could see far-right populists and EU skeptics expand their power, USA Today explained. Harold Maass

8:33 a.m.

President Trump refusing to work with Democrats while they investigate him is just the latest sign that he's desperate to be impeached, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough says.

Scarborough during a Morning Joe discussion of Trump's Wednesday refusal to hold infrastructure talks with Democrats argued that the president "wants to be impeached so badly," Mediaite reports.

This immediately prompted a laugh from analyst John Heilemann, but Scarborough quickly clarified he was serious, making the case that Trump wants the House to impeach him so he can then be acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.

"He saw what happened with Bill Clinton, whose presidency he looks at and studies an awful lot, and he saw that Bill Clinton went up to 60 percent after he was impeached," Scarborough said.

Trump wants this ahead of the 2020 election, Scarborough argued, because "he knows he's got no record to run on" and "doesn't have much to show for" his presidency. Plus, he "loves to be victimized," Scarborough argued. Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski agreed, saying that Trump is "desperate" for impeachment as a way to "turn the attention on him in the most chaotic way."

This is an argument that has also been set forth by some Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has said that Trump is "goading us to impeach him" but has essentially argued that doing so would play into his hands if there is not a bipartisan consensus. She has continuously rejected impeachment talk for that reason, even as she says some of Trump's conduct could be impeachable. Brendan Morrow

8:02 a.m.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are split on whether to appear on Fox News, and on Tuesday night, The Daily Show's Trevor Noah explained the advantages they can reap from going on the generally unfriendly network. On Wednesday's Full Frontal, Daily Show alumna Samantha Bee offered a counterpoint.

Yes, Mayor Pete Buttigieg got "a touching reception for a candidate on a network that doesn't believe his sexual orientation entitles him to a wedding cake," Bee said, but really, this isn't that complicated. "You do not have to go on Fox News."

"Yes, there are some benefits to crossing the media aisle to try to reach new voters," Bee said. "And it's great to talk to as many voters as possible, but where you talk to them matters. As Elizabeth Warren put it as she refused to appear on the network, Fox News is a 'hate-for-profit racket' — which, in all fairness, would make it the first profitable racket Donald Trump has ever been involved in."

"In its entire history, Fox News was never on the level, but in the Trump era, the network has become an extension of his administration , or maybe vice versa — they don't pretend otherwise, so why should anyone else?" Bee asked. "At a certain point, if you play along with Fox, you don't look principled or bipartisan — you just look stupid. Nobody is impressed by how Charlie Brown reaches across the aisle to Lucy's football."

"If you're sure that going on Fox is strategically the right thing to do, I guess go for it," Bee said. "But I am sure that it is not morally the right thing to do. When you go on Fox News, no matter how lit your town hall game is that night, you are legitimizing them. ... And if you do go on, they're just going to take you out of context anyway." Watch Fox News twisting Buttigieg below. Peter Weber

7:53 a.m.

Mario Batali, the celebrity chef who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by multiple women, is now facing a criminal charge.

Batali will be arraigned on Friday on a charge of indecent assault and battery, The Associated Press reports. According to the criminal complaint, a woman alleges that in March 2017, she was taking a photo with Batali at a Boston restaurant when he grabbed her chest, The Boston Globe reports. She says he then began to kiss her and touch her groin without consent.

The New York Times notes that the allegation lines up with one previously made by Natali Tene, who in August filed a lawsuit against Batali.

“Without asking her permission or giving her any warning, and without having received any indication that she had any sexual interest in him whatsoever, which she did not, Batali sexually assaulted her," the woman's lawyers said in the civil complaint.

A lawyer for Batali said the charges are "without merit" and that he will "fight the allegations vigorously."

Batali first faced allegations of sexual misconduct from four women in an article published by Eater in December 2017, which led to his exit from the ABC show The Chew. Additional women later came forward with allegations of sexual assault. The New York Police Department last year investigated three allegations of sexual assault against Batali but closed its investigations in January, with two of the alleged incidents behind outside the statute of limitations and with police not obtaining enough evidence in the third investigation to bring a charge, the Times reports.

Batali, who has apologized for his past behavior but denied the allegations of assault, has since given up all of his restaurants. Brendan Morrow

6:50 a.m.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declared victory on Thursday as early results from India's six-week-long election showed it headed toward a landslide win over the main opposition Congress party and powerful regional parties. Full results aren't expected until Thursday night or later, but partial results have BJP ahead in more than 300 of 542 seats in the lower house of Parliament, and if Modi's party ended up with at least 272 seats, he can govern in his second term without a coalition; BJP won 282 seats in 2014. Congress is ahead in fewer than 100 seats. More than 600 million people voted in the elections.

The election was widely viewed as a referendum on Modi, a polarizing but charismatic figure who is adept at using social media but is blamed for increasing ethnic and religious divisions in India. The country's economy has been underperforming in the past few years, but Modi focused on national security during the campaign, a major topic amid skirmishes with Pakistan in Kashmir.

"Backed by enormous resources, the BJP's organizational machinery, employing all modern methods of communication, is now difficult to beat," writes BBC News correspondent Soutik Biswas. If Congress wants to recover, it will have to work harder and "build an alternative narrative to take on the BJP's campaign, which deftly combined nationalism, development, and religious polarization." Peter Weber

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