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August 10, 2018

It seems somehow fitting that a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame has become a symbolic battleground for America's stark divide on President Trump. The Donald Trump star, in honor of The Apprentice, has been destroyed twice in the past two years, most recently in late July. The man who claimed responsibility for taking a pickax to Trump's star, Austin Clay, was bailed out of jail by James Otis, the man who took a sledgehammer to the star in November 2016. And the West Hollywood City Council just voted unanimously to remove the star over his treatment of women, a decision that isn't theirs to make.

But the fear of losing the Trump star was enough to spur a group of Trump-loving street artists to jump into action, and on Wednesday night, they installed dozens of vinyl Donald Trump stars on blank squares around the stars of Trump critics. "Keep taking down the @realDonaldTrump star, and we will further spread Trump Derangement Syndrome by installing a never ending stream of stars," the group, calling themselves The Faction, wrote on Twitter, with video of their work.

The unidentified conservative street artist who made the realistic-looking Trump stickers told The Hollywood Reporter he spent $1,000 on the first batch of stars, with the money coming at least partly from "a young and anonymous entrepreneur." "If no one peels these off, they could last there for 10 years," the artist said, but it's a good thing The Faction took pictures, because cleaning crews and employees of stores along Hollywood Blvd. began removing the stars at 5 a.m. Thursday.

The Faction isn't the only group going to silly lengths to make a brief, symbolic stand on the Donald Trump star. In a bout of world-class trolling, two men dressed as Russian soldiers stood guard over the star in the days after its most recent destruction.

Keep in mind, late July was really hot in Los Angeles. Peter Weber

12:48 p.m. ET
ABC/Eric McCandless

Even without its former leading lady, The Conners had a solid debut on ABC this week.

The first episode of the Roseanne spin-off drew about 10.46 million viewers on Tuesday night, writes The Hollywood Reporter, which is about the same audience size that Roseanne was maintaining when it ended last May. The finale of Roseanne, the last episode that actually had actress Roseanne Barr in it, drew 10.58 million viewers.

Roseanne was canceled after Barr sent a racist tweet calling a black woman an "ape," only for ABC to order a spin-off featuring everyone but Barr. In the debut, it's revealed that Barr's character died of a drug overdose off-screen.

The Conners' premiere did, however, attract a significantly smaller audience than the premiere of the Roseanne revival, as about 18.4 million people tuned into that last March. The initial boom dropped off as the tenth season went on, and the show began averaging about 10 million viewers per episode near the end of its run.

The real question, though, is how The Conners will continue to perform throughout the season. Are viewers satisfied with the new Roseanne-free lineup, or did they simply tune in to satisfy a morbid curiosity about how her firing would be addressed? Could this situation be like Kevin Can Wait, in which the episode with the female lead's death drew 10 million viewers, only for the ratings to immediately tank until the show was swiftly canceled? Or will it be more like Two and a Half Men, which continued for years after Charlie Sheen's firing? No matter which way it shakes out, viewers can presume that Barr will continue to tweet angrily about it. Brendan Morrow

12:02 p.m. ET
YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images

New horrifying details are emerging about the evidence Turkey claims to have in the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkish officials reportedly shared with the United States details of an audio recording that suggests Khashoggi was killed minutes after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The audio reportedly includes the voice of Salah Al Tabiqi, a Saudi forensic specialist, who tells others in the room to listen to music while he dismembers Khashoggi.

Audio leaked by a Turkish newspaper also suggests Khashoggi had his fingers cut off and was beheaded, and that the Saudi consul general told operatives to "do this outside," The New York Times reports. "You will put me in trouble," he reportedly said.

The United States is awaiting the completion of a Saudi investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance. The journalist arrived at the consulate earlier this month and has not been heard from since. Saudi Arabia's government has denied any knowledge of what happened to him, but Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he is expanding the probe to find details.

President Trump seems to be leaning toward believing Saudi officials' denials; on Tuesday he compared accusations that they were involved in Khashoggi's death to the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Both, he said, are cases of being considered "guilty until proven innocent." Pompeo, after speaking with Saudi leaders Tuesday, said he did not yet "want to talk about any of the facts." Brendan Morrow

11:35 a.m. ET

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn't "want to talk about any of the facts" regarding the disappearance of Jamal Khoshoggi.

The U.S.-based Saudi journalist hasn't been seen since he entered Turkey's Saudi Arabian consulate on Oct. 2, prompting a meeting between Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. Before Pompeo left Riyadh on Wednesday after the meeting, a reporter asked him if the Saudis had indicated whether Khashoggi was "alive or dead."

"I don't want to talk about any of the facts," Pompeo responded, and the Saudis "didn't want to either." Instead, the Saudis just want "the opportunity to complete this investigation" into Khashoggi's disappearance, Pompeo said, adding that it is "reasonable" to let them do so.

Few details have emerged from Pompeo's meetings with bin Salman and Saudi King Salman. But Pompeo and bin Salman apparently did make a joint call to President Trump, in which bin Salman "totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish consulate," Trump tweeted Tuesday. Turkish officials reportedly have evidence that Saudi operatives killed Khashoggi, but Trump has pushed to presume Saudi Arabia's innocence until the investigation is complete. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:51 a.m. ET
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump apparently needed more than a cash boost from his father to create his booming real estate business.

He and the Trump Organization also worked with "accused money launderers, alleged funders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and a felon who slashed someone in the face with a broken margarita glass" in recent decades to profit off real estate projects around the world using "deceptive practices," an investigation from ProPublica and WNYC revealed on Wednesday.

In the past, the Trump Organization has claimed it wasn't deeply involved with these sketchy characters. Putting the Trump name on a project with questionable partners was just for marketing purposes, and the Trump Organization wasn't actually developing these buildings, it explained. But the ProPublica probe seems to reveal otherwise — and also alleges the Trump family attracted investors and buyers with false sales and ownership figures.

In one of a dozen examples, Trump told a Florida newspaper in 2005 he had a "substantial stake" in a tower being built in Tampa. "In reality, Trump had no ownership stake in the project," ProPublica writes. In another, Ivanka Trump told Portfolio she "sold over 90 percent" of a 1,000-unit building in Panama. Three months later, just 79 percent of the units were gone — and some of them were sold, for lower rates than she claimed, by a broker with ties to the Russian mafia. The project eventually went bankrupt and was stripped of its Trump name.

"These statements weren't just the legendary Trump hype; they misled potential buyers and investors about the viability of the developments," ProPublica and WNYC explain. And when the projects failed, as they often did, the Trumps reportedly still profited before distancing themselves from the failures.

The Trump Organization didn't respond to ProPublica/WNYC's request for comment, and the White House had no comment. Read more at ProPublica and WNYC. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:49 a.m. ET
Pablo Cuadra/Getty Images

Many of Woody Allen's past collaborators have distanced themselves from him, but at least one has now come to his defense.

Javier Bardem, who starred in Allen’s 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, said at the Lumière Film Festival this week that the filmmaker is a “genius” and that he'd “work with him tomorrow," Variety reported Wednesday. He also warned that "public accusations are very dangerous."

Allen's adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, has accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1992 when she was seven years old. Allen denies the allegation, and New York State's Department of Social Services at the time said they found "no credible evidence" to support it, per The New York Times. Farrow stood by her claim in 2014, and her brother, investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, has said his sister's allegation is credible. Although the claim against Allen has been public knowledge for years, the #MeToo movement has spurred many actors who have worked with him to publicly announce they would not do so again, including Michael Caine, Colin Firth, and Greta Gerwig.

Bardem, however, equates this to a "public lynching" of Allen, writes The Hollywood Reporter. He says that if Allen were found guilty in a court of law, things would be different, but for now, "nothing has changed."

Whether Bardem would actually have the chance to work with Allen again remains to be seen, however. The director's latest movie may not be released at all, as several cast members have expressed regret about working on it and donated their salaries to charity. The New York Post reports that Allen has yet to secure financing for any future movies. Brendan Morrow

8:51 a.m. ET
Scott Olson / Getty Images

President Trump appears to be hoping Texas voters have forgotten about the 2016 Republican primaries.

On Twitter Wednesday, the president expressed his support for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after watching his debate with Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke, saying that Cruz has actually "long had my Strong Endorsement!"

This comment seems to raise some questions about how Trump defines "long." Trump famously gave the Texas senator the nickname "Lyin' Ted" back in 2016, accused his father of being involved in the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy, and tweeted out a picture of his wife while threatening to "spill the beans" about her, per CNN. Their feud was even more vicious than that of typical political rivals. Cruz called Trump a "sniveling coward" and refused to endorse him when he spoke at the Republican National Convention, prompting viewers to boo him off the stage.

Trump's attacks on Cruz, in fact, were so brutal that O'Rourke borrowed them during the debate, saying the "Lyin' Ted" nickname stuck "because it's true." Brendan Morrow

8:42 a.m. ET

Congressional Republicans are once again distancing themselves from a shocking tweet made by President Trump.

After Trump referred to adult film star Stormy Daniels as "horseface" on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told CBS on Wednesday that there is "no place for that kind of language" and that Trump "should not have said that." Ryan conducted the interview alongside Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who called Trump's insult "unacceptable," adding she disagrees with the way the president addresses women.

Several other GOP members of Congress have also criticized Trump for this comment against Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) responded to the tweet by saying, "that's not the way men act," while Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) said that the insult was "unbecoming of any man, let alone the POTUS." Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), typically an ardent Trump defender, felt the tweet went too far, saying that although Trump may be "a street fighter," he's "also the president." Watch Ryan's comments to CBS below. Brendan Morrow

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