June 24, 2019

Two days after winning the 2016 presidential election, President Trump fired his transition chief, former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), and his new transition team discarded Christie's copious files and instead outsourced its nominee vetting to the Republican National Committee. Axios obtained RNC vetting files on about 100 people, many of whom joined the Trump administration as Cabinet secretaries and agency heads.

Some of the young RNC staffers who "scrubbed" the public records of potential Trump hires told Axios the rushed process was "a disaster" and "a clown show" focused on making sure a potential nominee for an often unspecified position was at least "not a kid-toucher." Here are some of the "red flags" the vetters highlighted:

1. Kris Kobach: A potential Homeland Security secretary pick, Kobach's file notes that critics said he spoke at "a 'White Nationalist' conference," "tied him to white supremacist groups," and said "Kobach's college thesis praised Apartheid in South Africa." Kobach headed Trump's short-lived voter fraud commission and was most recently considered for an "immigration czar" post.

2. David Petraeus: The former general was being considered for secretary of state or national security adviser, and along with flagging that "Petraeus has indicated that the U.S. should deal with Russia with a stronger hand" and said "Brexit would 'damage Western security,'" his vetting file warns: "Petraeus is opposed to torture."

3. Rudy Giuliani: Giuliani, now Trump's personal lawyer and at the time under consideration for secretary of state, got his own 25-page RNC dossier on his business ties and "foreign entanglements."

4. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Gabbard (D-Hawaii), now running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, was vetted for a position in Trump's administration, reportedly Veterans Affairs secretary. Her file notes that she backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and "has given Democrats as many headaches" as "blessings."

5. Laura Ingraham: Trump considered the Fox News host as White House press secretary, and among other controversies, the RNC flagged Ingraham's "Nazi salute controversy," her suggestion "that the Clintons were going to kill FBI Director James Comey," and her stated views that "illegal immigrants who attempt to re-enter the country should be 'shot'" and "people should wear diapers instead of sharing bathrooms with transgender people."

Axios had Chris Christie read his own file on-camera for its Sunday evening HBO show.

Read more tidbits, and responses from the White House and various vetted people, at Axios. Peter Weber

5:12 p.m.

Even at the best of times, first kisses can be pretty awkward, but Kate Beckinsale's memory of her "horrible" first kiss includes a particularly nauseating extra ingredient: Meat.

While on The Late Late Show with James Corden, the actress recalled a first kiss with a boy who had just eaten a meat lovers' pizza — and when they locked lips, she realized "there's all that kind of wet activity inside the other person's mouth, with lots of bits of sausages in as well." We know it's probably too late, but man, if you're out there, a little friendly advice: Finish chewing and swallowing before you plant one on a future actress who will someday need a hilarious anecdote for a late-night show.

Read more at Fox News and watch the clip below. Scott Meslow

5:08 p.m.

Ah, the ever-changing winds of Hollywood. One decade, you're the hot young star at the center of your own action franchise; the next, you're the grizzled old mentor paired with the new hot young star.

That's exactly what happened to Mark Wahlberg, who was slated to star as the main character in a big-budget adaptation of the PlayStation video game series Uncharted in 2010, reports Entertainment Weekly. After languishing in Hollywood purgatory for a while, Uncharted is back on… with Spider-Man: Homecoming star Tom Holland set to play the hero, and with Wahlberg set to play his older, cigar-chomping mentor Sully. (To be fair: If anyone can appreciate a new kid on the block, it's Wahlberg.) Read more at Entertainment Weekly. Scott Meslow

4:57 p.m.

It smells like court spirit for Marc Jacobs. A California judge is allowing Nirvana to proceed with a copyright infringement lawsuit against the designer for his "reinterpreted" use of the band's happy face logo.

In December 2018 Nirvana sued Jacobs, claiming a shirt in Jacobs' Bootleg Redux Grunge collection is a rip off of the logo Kurt Cobain designed in 1991. In March, Jacobs responded by filing a motion to dismiss the case arguing that the designs are not sufficiently similar and that there are technicalities in Nirvana's ownership of the logo, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Kronsdadt disagreed with the designer's claims. He ruled that the similarities between the two shirts are adequate and that the technicalities in the legality of the band's registration for the logo are insufficient, Rolling Stone reports.

In his motion to dismiss, The Guardian noted, Jacobs claimed that he was "inspired" by the classic vintage logo but put his own mark on it (no pun intended). Nirvana alleges the use of the logo "misled the public into falsely believing that Nirvana endorses the entire 'Bootleg Redux Grunge' collection … when Nirvana has not done so."

Kronstadt asserted that the only "discernible differences" between the two T-shirts is that Jacob's features M and J initials for the eyes versus the band's use of two X's, notes the Reporter. The judge ultimately decided on Thursday that there was enough there to bolster the band's claims and the suit could survive the dismissal.


(Screenshot/Amazon)

Brielle Diskin

4:53 p.m.

Plenty of celebrities have their vices, but Rod Stewart is hooked on a particularly expensive and addictive habit: Model trains.

In a recent interview with Railway Modeller magazine, the rocker revealed he's spent the past 23 years building an elaborate model train set, which weaves through a large fictional city of his own creation in the attic of his Los Angeles mansion.

As Stewart explained, he's so dedicated to realistic detail that he has put fake garbage in the gutters and ensured each stone in the pavement is a slightly different color — retroactively calling the title of his album Never a Dull Moment into question. Read more at TMZ. Scott Meslow

4:43 p.m.

Joker is nearing the fabled threshold of $1 billion at the global box office, which can only mean one thing: Sequel time!

But while Warner Bros. would no doubt greenlight pretty much any movie with the word "Joker" in the title right now, star Joaquin Phoenix is being a little more selective about a possible followup, merely telling the Los Angeles Times he feels the character offers "too much to explore" in a single movie — so he'll no doubt be relieved to hear there were literally four other movies featuring the Joker before his Joker arrived.

Read more at Los Angeles Times. Scott Meslow

4:35 p.m.

The actor behind Star Wars' Greedo has searched his feelings about the strange new Disney+ version, but he's coming up short of an explanation.

When Disney+ launched this week, Star Wars fans were baffled to find yet another change to a classic scene in the original 1977 film: the showdown between Han and Greedo, which was controversially altered after its original release so that Greedo fires a shot at Han before Han shoots and kills him. That's still the case in the version on Disney+, but now, an extra Greedo line has been added for no apparent reason, with the doomed Rodian shouting what sounds like "maclunkey!"

Empire caught up with Paul Blake, the actor who played Greedo in the original Star Wars, and he didn't have much in the way of an answer. "It confused me incredibly, but I've never understood anything about the movies anyway, particularly that," he said. Larry Ward provided the voice of Greedo, though, so he might have a slightly better idea.

Funnily enough, Blake told Empire he actually learned about the confusing new scene from Mike Carter, who played Bib Fortuna in Return of the Jedi. "He texted me and said, 'MACLUNKEY!'" Blake said. "I said, 'What the f—k are you talking about?'"

The new edit does actually come creator George Lucas himself,, with Disney confirming this week he made the change prior to the 2012 Lucasfilm purchase. Bryan Young also observed that the word, or something that sounds quite similar to it, was actually used by Sebulba in The Phantom Menace, and it translates roughly into "this'll be the end of you."

Blake, though, had a far more fun theory, telling Empire, "Well he's talking about his Scottish grandmother there. Greedo had a Scottish grandmother and an Irish grandfather, and a Rodian step-mother." Get on those updates, Wookieepedia editors. Brendan Morrow

3:16 p.m.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has officially conceded the state's gubernatorial election.

Democrat Andy Beshear, Kentucky's attorney general, declared victory in last week's race while leading Bevin by about 5,000 votes, but Bevin didn't concede defeat and requested a recanvass. That recanvass began on Thursday, CNN reports.

In a news conference Thursday, Bevin said that it's now clear "the actual number is going to fluctuate somewhat, but not so significantly that it's going to change the outcome of this election."

"We're going to have a change in the governorship based on the vote of the people, and what I want is to see the absolute best for Kentucky," he also said. "I'm not going to contest these numbers that have come in."

Bevin had been facing calls from Republicans in the state to concede, with Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Ky.) telling the Lexington Herald Leader it's the "best thing to do."

President Trump endorsed Bevin and held a rally in support of him the day before the election, telling supporters that if Bevin lost, this would send "a really bad message." Brendan Morrow

See More Speed Reads