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February 8, 2019

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker repeatedly declined to answer questions from both Democrats and Republicans at a contentious congressional hearing Friday.

Whitaker opened the House Judiciary Committee hearing by saying he would be citing executive privilege in response to some questions, and he certainly lived up to that promise. Here are a few key examples:

1. When asked if he believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is a witch hunt, Whitaker wouldn't say, replying, "It would be inappropriate for me to talk about an ongoing investigation."

2. Asked whether he has spoken with President Trump about the Southern District of New York's investigation into his former lawyer Michael Cohen, Whitaker wouldn't say. He also wouldn't say whether he has had conversations with anyone about firing or reassigning SDNY attorneys.

3. Whitaker wouldn't say whether he has privately spoken with Mueller's team about his personal opinions about the probe.

4. Whitaker wouldn't say whether he spoke with anyone at the White House about former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' departure from the administration before it happened.

5. Asked if he ever talked with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about reports that he suggested wearing a wire to secretly record Trump, Whitaker said, "I'm not here to talk about the internal discussions" he has within the Justice Department.

6. Although Whitaker did reveal that he has not spoken with Trump about Mueller's investigation, at other points in the hearing he declined to answer similar questions, such as when he was asked whether he's spoken with "the president or parts of his legal team about information that you've learned ... related to the Mueller investigation or any other criminal investigation involving the president."

7. Asked for a yes or no answer about whether officials at the Department of Justice advised him to recuse himself from the Mueller probe, Whitaker wouldn't provide one, simply saying, "It was my decision to make." Brendan Morrow

7:36 p.m.

President Trump will most likely nominate attorney Eugene Scalia to be the next Labor secretary, three people familiar with the matter told Politico.

Scalia is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and is a partner at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. In 2006, he represented Walmart in the retail giant's fight against a Maryland law that would have forced the company to spend more money on employee health care.

Last week, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta stepped down following outrage over a 2008 plea deal he arranged with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in Florida. Acosta's deputy, Patrick Pizzella, will step into the role on Friday. Catherine Garcia

7:01 p.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday it will not ban the use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide associated with health problems in children.

During the Obama administration, the EPA produced scientific studies showing chlorpyrifos could damage brain development in children and prohibited its use, but in 2017, Scott Pruitt, then the agency's administrator, reversed course. This led to a legal battle, and in April, a federal appeals court told the EPA it had to make a final decision on the ban by July. In a statement, the agency said there is not enough data to show that an unsafe amount of pesticide residue is left in or on treated foods.

Sold under the name Lorsban, chlorpyrifos cannot be used in homes, but can be used by farmers, who spray it on more than 50 nut, fruit, vegetable, and cereal crops, The New York Times reports. Since the legal battle began, several states, including California and New York, have announced they are looking into banning chlorpyrifos. Catherine Garcia

5:40 p.m.

Nothing can adequately prepare you for your first glimpse at the Cats movie.

Universal Pictures on Thursday debuted the highly-anticipated first footage from its upcoming musical adaptation after months of teases about Taylor Swift's attending of "cat school" and the film's supposedly revolutionary use of, as the filmmakers describe it, "digital fur technology." And, well, here it is.

From start to finish, the trailer is a wild ride that doesn't even attempt to ease viewers into how surreal literally every character in the film looks. That online reaction to the initially funky-looking CGI Genie in Aladdin and the extremely distressing new Sonic the Hedgehog don't even hold a candle.

Cats' cast includes, believe it or not, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Ian McKellen, and Judie Dench, who discussed their experience making the film in a recent behind-the-scenes reel featuring such quotes as "they're people but they're cats ... there is nothing else like it." Indeed, there isn't. Take a deep breath and watch the trailer below. Brendan Morrow

4:42 p.m.

Tom Cruise still has that need for speed, even three decades later.

At San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday, Cruise made an unannounced appearance following a Terminator: Dark Fate panel to reveal the first trailer for the long-awaited Top: Gun Maverick, a follow-up to the 1986 original that's set for release next year. The footage, which dropped online shortly after its Comic-Con debut, shows off Cruise's return as Maverick and some seriously impressive-looking flying sequences.

Cruise, who in recent years has infamously done his own, increasingly insane stunts for the Mission: Impossible franchise, promised the Comic-Con audience similar authenticity in Maverick, saying, "Everything you see in this film, obviously, it's for real," Variety reports. "We're working with the Navy. All of the flying that you see in this picture, everything is real." He also described the movie as a "love letter to aviation."

Top Gun: Maverick will hit theaters on June 26, 2020, and Cruise said Thursday that after a 34 year wait, "I felt it was my responsibility for me to deliver for you." Watch the trailer below. Brendan Morrow

4:35 p.m.

The U.S. Navy has "destroyed" an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, President Trump announced Thursday afternoon.

The U.S.S. Boxer was sailing in the strategic strait when the drone came within 1,000 yards of it and ignored "multiple calls to stand down," Trump told reporters. It then took "defensive action" and used electronic jamming to down the drone, Trump continued.

The attack comes after Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Thursday claimed responsibility for seizing a foreign tanker that went missing this past weekend in the Strait of Hormuz, The Washington Post notes. It's the latest international incident in the waterway that connects the Persian Gulf with the rest of the world, and also comes amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Iran shot a U.S. drone in that area last month, but while America says it was in international airspace, Iran claimed it was flying in Iranian territory. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:55 p.m.

Toys 'R' Us is getting a reboot.

The retailer, which closed all its locations in the U.S. in 2018 after the company filed for bankruptcy, is being relaunched by Tru Kids Brands with the opening of two new stores this year, CNN reports. One of the new locations will be in Houston, Texas, while the other will be in Paramus, New Jersey, and the company's aim is to open 10 new stores by the end of 2020, The Washington Post reports.

But Toys 'R' Us won't be coming back without some major changes, as Tru Kids Brands has reworked the stores' design so they're more "fun and interactive" as to "better fit within today's retail environment," CEO Richard Barry told the Post. The two new locations will be smaller — 6,500-square feet compared to about 40,000 square feet before — and they'll emphasize open areas for children to play in, the Post notes. The stores will also sell fewer toys than before, CNN reports. Previously, lenders had teased a "new and re-imagined" Toys 'R Us on the horizon.

Ahead of this relaunch, though, The Associated Press notes that it's unclear "how much support the new model will get from suppliers, who were burned by Toys 'R' Us' quick demise." The company in 2018 announced it would close all of its stores in the United States six months after filing for bankruptcy, resulting in the loss of more than 30,000 jobs, per The Washington Post.

For Toys 'R' Us kids in Texas and New Jersey, the new locations will open this fall. Brendan Morrow

3:46 p.m.

National Hockey League Hall of Famer and former Hartford Whaler Ron Francis was named the first general manager of Seattle's forthcoming expansion team on Thursday, The Seattle Times reports.

The team was approved by the NHL's Board of Governors in December, and will begin playing in the 2021-2022 season. Francis received a multi-year contract with Seattle, according to ESPN.

Francis played 23 seasons in the NHL, and is second only to Wayne Gretzky in all-time career assists. Following his retirement in 2004, Francis was hired to direct operations for the Carolina Hurricanes and was later named general manager. He was then president of hockey operations until 2018.

The new Seattle team is still unnamed, but Oak View Group, the new team's ownership group, registered 13 possible trademarks last year, including the Seattle Kraken, the Seattle Sockeyes, and the Seattle Evergreens. The name choice, which Francis will be able to give input on, is expected to be announced by the end of the year. To the dismay of few, the Whalers is not being considered.

The Seattle team, when it officially launches, will become the league's 32nd team, following the Las Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, who reached the Stanley Cup finals in their first season. Their entrance will cause a realignment of the league's divisions, with Seattle taking the Arizona Coyotes' place in the Pacific Division, and moving the Coyotes, who play in suburban Phoenix, to the Central Division. Together, the Central and Pacific Divisions make up the Western Conference, and the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions make up the Eastern Conference.

Francis tweeted that he was looking forward to "build[ing] an excellent franchise that will bring back the Stanley Cup!" Steven Orlofsky

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