November 15, 2019

Taylor Swift is very much included in this narrative.

Swift and Big Machine Records, which produced her first six albums, unamicably parted ways a year ago in what was the beginning of a high-profile fight over who controls Swift's songs. That reached a new height Thursday night when Swift posted an open letter accusing the label of stopping her from performing her songs live — and Big Machine is denying it all.

In her statement, Swift discussed how she'd be getting an American Music Award deeming her the "artist of the decade," and wanted to perform a medley of her songs at the awards show. She also said, and "this isn't the way I had planned on telling you this news," that a Netflix documentary about her was in the works as well. But all of those things are "a big question mark" because Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun — Big Machine's founder and the man whose holding company bought Big Machine earlier this year, respectively — "have now said that I'm not allowed to perform my old songs on television" because she'd be re-recording her music before she's allowed to in November 2020, Swift said.

On Friday, Big Machine fired back. "We were shocked to see her Tumblr statements yesterday based on false information," and "at no point" did Big Machine attempt to block her performances or documentary, it said in a statement. It decried her for risking "the safety of our employees and their families," stemming from how she directed fans to question Borchetta and Braun and their other clients. And with what was likely a deliberate choice of words, Big Machine directly addressed Swift to say "the narrative you have created does not exist." Kathryn Krawczyk

12:26 p.m.

The Treasury Department is sanctioning a Russian criminal organization whose name couldn't possibly be more on-the-nose.

The Trump administration on Thursday announced sanctions against a Russian organization that used malware to "infect computers and harvest login credentials from hundreds of banks and financial institutions in over 40 countries, causing more than $100 million in theft," CNN reports. That organization's name? "Evil Corp."

This absurd name, CNBC notes, seems to be a reference to a fictional organization from the TV series Mr. Robot.

"Treasury is sanctioning Evil Corp as part of a sweeping action against one of the world's most prolific cybercriminal organizations," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday. "This coordinated action is intended to disrupt the massive phishing campaigns orchestrated by this Russian-based hacker group." Move aside, Fraud Guarantee. There's a new most hilariously incriminating name in town. Brendan Morrow

11:20 a.m.

The impeachment saga is far from over.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the next phase of impeachment on Thursday, saying she'd told House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) to "proceed with articles of impeachment" against President Trump. But that doesn't mean everything just gets shipped off to the Senate.

As CNN's Manu Raju notes, Pelosi will keep talking with House members to find out whether they'll vote for or against impeachment. First the House Judiciary Committee will vote on advancing the articles, possibly as soon as next week, but after the House Intelligence Committee presents its findings for the judiciary. The whole House will then weigh in, and that could happen the week after. With most of the House supporting the impeachment inquiry in the first place, it's likely Pelosi will get a majority vote to send the articles beyond the House.

The House's Democratic leaders still have yet to write up those articles, and what's in them will largely be up to Nadler, Pelosi, and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). They'll consider whether to include Trump's alleged abuse of power and bribery, his obstruction of Congress by refusing to respond to subpoenas, or his obstruction of justice as alleged by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in the articles.

Next up, the articles head to the Senate Judiciary and potentially the whole Senate for a trial. The Senate seems well aware of this possibility, and has left its January calendar completely blank as impeachment looms. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:38 a.m.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has announced the next phase of impeachment in the House.

Pelosi announced Thursday that she would be asking House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) to "proceed with articles of impeachment" against President Trump. "The president leaves us no choice but to act" after he "engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security, and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections," Pelosi said.

Pelosi's announcement was heavy on history, starting with a reflection of how America's founders included an impeachment power in the Constitution because they "feared the prospects of a king president corrupted by foreign influence." Trump's "actions are in defiance of the vision of our founders, and in the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States," Pelosi finished.

Pelosi's announcement came after weeks of public and closed-door testimonies from impeachment witnesses before the House Intelligence Committee, and a day after legal scholars testified for the House Judiciary Committee. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:16 a.m.

Why did world leaders including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laugh about President Trump in a viral video? Because they're "jealous," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suggests.

Conway spoke to Fox & Friends Thursday about a viral video showing world leaders including Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson laughing about Trump and his lengthy press conference.

On Fox & Friends, Conway blasted the exchange as "childish" but said the world leaders were "hardly denouncing the president's policies" and suggested jealousy was really to blame.

"What was it really about?" Conway asked. "It was about the fact that President Trump commands a room, and he does. And maybe that makes a couple of people jealous."

After the video emerged Wednesday, Trump was "fuming" over it, CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports. He subsequently blasted Trudeau as "two-faced" and then was heard praising his own insult on a hot mic, saying, "that was funny when I called that guy two-faced." Conway doubled down on that characterization on Fox & Friends, saying with his "two-faced" description, Trump "said it best." Brendan Morrow

8:08 a.m.

NBC is formally investigating America's Got Talent after a meeting with Gabrielle Union, the former judge allegedly ousted after complaining about a toxic work environment.

Union announced on Twitter Wednesday that she had concluded a five hour, "productive" meeting with NBC, and "I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change." NBC also called the meeting "productive" in a statement, saying "there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts" and "we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution," Variety reports.

Reports emerged in Variety and Vulture last week that Union was not being brought back as a judge on America's Got Talent after she voiced concerns about the show's work environment, including complaining about alleged racist incidents like an offensive joke reportedly made by Jay Leno. She also complained about Simon Cowell smoking indoors, Vulture reports; she is allergic to cigarette smoke. Additionally, Union was told on numerous occasions that her hairstyles were "too black," Variety reports.

Deadline reports that NBC's further investigation "involves AGT creator and judge Cowell, who seems to be at the center of what went down during Union's one-season stint on the show," also reporting that "the next step in the process for NBC is to have an as yet undetermined independent investigator prioritize moving things forward." SAG-AFTRA has also launched an investigation into the allegations. Brendan Morrow

7:49 a.m.

Willie Nelson, one of the world's most famous proponents of marijuana and ganjapreneurs, surprised a lot of people when he told San Antonio's KSAT-12 TV last week that he has stop smoking weed. "I have abused my lungs quite a bit in the past, so breathing is a little more difficult these days and I have to be careful," Nelson, 86, told Paul Venema aboard his tour bus. "I started smoking cedar bark, went from that to cigarettes to whatever," he added. "And that almost killed me. ... I don't smoke anymore."

This is like "like Michael Jordan retiring from the NBA," said Page Six's Oli Coleman. "It's like Donald Trump quitting Twitter. It's like Lindsay Lohan forsaking drama. ... Nelson has allegedly smoked weed on the roof of the White House, has credited the drug with saving his life, and his personal stash was so powerful that it inspired the Toby Keith song, 'I'll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again.' Neither, apparently, will anyone else."

But there are different ways to consume pot besides smoking it, Nelson spokeswoman Elaine Schock told The Associated Press on Wednesday, and Willie avails himself of such alternative forms of weed ingestion. "That said," she added, "Willie does what he wants, when he wants, when it comes to smoking."

Nelson told KSAT he has no plans to give up touring, and he his bothered by rumors of his imminent demise. "I don't give a sh-t — excuse me," he said. "I'm here, I'm glad to be here, I'm lucky to be here." Peter Weber

6:54 a.m.

"Nearly three years after President Trump took office, work is finally underway on one of his key campaign promises," Norah O'Donnell said on Wednesday's CBS Evening News. Reporter Mireya Villarreal looked at the first new border wall being constructed under Trump's watch, in Donna, Texas. The new section won't be completed until January 2021, she noted, and the initial eight-mile stretch will cost $167 million.

"All told, nearly $10 billion has been set aside from government agencies for wall funding — and that's a bill U.S. taxpayers, not Mexico, are footing," Villarreal noted. At least 78 miles of border fencing has been replaced since 2017, and the Trump administration is shooting for 80-90 miles of new wall over the next year or 18 months, a Border Patrol official told Villarreal, calling it an "aggressive" target.

At least 31 miles of that new barrier will be built by Fisher Sand and Gravel, a company Trump has repeatedly pressured the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Homeland Security to hire, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a booster of the North Dakota company and recipient of donations from its CEO, Tommy Fisher, tells The Washington Post. The Pentagon disclosed Monday that Fisher was awarded $400 million to build a new barrier in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona by the end of 2020.

Trump has been impressed by Tommy Fisher's border wall pitches on Fox News, Cramer has said, but the Army Corps of Engineers had previously dismissed Fisher's bids as subpar. Fisher has also built a few miles of border wall on private land under contract with the conservative crowdfunded group "We Build the Wall." A Texas state judge ordered a halt Tuesday to the company's construction on land near the the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, because the barrier — being built without permits or an impact study and despite a cease-and-desist request from the International Boundary and Water Commission — risks doing "imminent and irreparable harm" to the nature preserve. Peter Weber

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