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November 15, 2018

After being arrested for alleged domestic violence, attorney Michael Avenatti is claiming the same person who recently tried to smear Special Counsel Robert Mueller is responsible.

"First Mueller and now me," Avenatti tweeted Thursday. "When we are fully exonerated I am coming for you Jacob Wohl aka Surefire." Wohl is the far-right conspiracy theorist who claimed earlier this month a woman was about to come forward to accuse Mueller of sexual misconduct. This claim quickly fell apart when the supposed accuser never showed up to a press conference, during which Wohl offered multiple spellings of her name. Afterward, it was revealed that a photo supposedly of Wohl with the accuser was actually of his girlfriend — although the woman later denied they ever dated.

Now, Avenatti is alleging the same thing is happening to him, although he offered no evidence to back up his claim. He was arrested Wednesday by the Los Angeles Police Department for alleged domestic violence, but he called the allegations "bogus." Avenatti's client, adult film actress Stormy Daniels, said in a statement Thursday that the allegations are "serious and obviously very troubling" and that she will "be seeking new representation" if they are true, although she says "we should all reserve judgement until the investigation ... is complete."

Surefire Intelligence, Wohl's organization, tweeted "Surefire Intelligence strikes again" in response to the news of Avenatti's arrest, although Wohl denies involvement. Wohl responded to Avenatti's Thursday tweet by writing, "This guy is a SICKO!" He also says he reported Avenatti's "threat" to law enforcement. Brendan Morrow

1:47 p.m.

First Oprah left us — now Ellen wants to leave us too.

The comedian and star of The Ellen DeGeneres Show is considering leaving daytime television after her contract ends in 2020. In a Wednesday profile in The New York Times, DeGeneres revealed that she's tired of dancing her rhythmless dance and thinks it might be time to move on.

Currently in its 16th season after originally airing in 2003, The Ellen DeGeneres Show has controlled the host's schedule for well over a decade. Her wife, actress Portia de Rossi, thinks quitting the show would give DeGeneres the opportunity to explore other creative projects such as radio and podcasts. "I just think she's such a brilliant actress and stand-up that it doesn't have to be this talk show for her creativity,” said de Rossi. "I don't see the end of her show as her career ending." However, there are others in DeGeneres' family, like her brother, who believe she shouldn't stop.

More recently, DeGeneres has started dipping back into stand-up (after 15 years!) with her new Netflix special, Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable. The special shows the comedian in a new light, reports BuzzFeed News, with DeGeneres poking fun at how fame has made her unrelatable and even cursing.

Whether she quits or not, DeGeneres hopes to act in more movies. In another sign of her breaking from her ultra-nice public persona, she says she'd like to play "someone unappealing." Read more at the The New York Times. Amari Pollard

1:29 p.m.

Britain is slated to leave the European Union — and its prime minister is ready to exit as well.

At a Conservative Party meeting on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said she won't run as the party's leader in the next general election, a lawmaker at the meeting told Reuters. Instead, she'll step down as soon as "she has delivered an orderly Brexit," a member of Parliament tweeted Wednesday. May's revelation comes just ahead of a vote of no confidence scheduled for Wednesday night, which could force her out of office early.

May's approval has been waning the past few weeks as her signature promise to leave the E.U. flounders in Parliament. The U.K. voted for Brexit more than two years ago, but lawmakers have since been torn over just how close Britain should remain with the rest of Europe. May's Brexit deal was set for consideration in Parliament this week, but she postponed the vote over fears it would fail.

The whole Brexit debacle — which even some experts don't quite understand — sparked at least 48 pro-Brexit members of May's Conservative Party to trigger a no-confidence vote in their leader. If May gets no-confidence votes from a majority of Conservative MPs on Wednesday night, she'll have to step down and the opposing Tory party would vote on a new leader. Regardless of the no-confidence vote's results, May affirmed Wednesday she wouldn't try to lead the party again in the next general election slated for 2022, per Reuters.

Here's a helpful chart for what happens if May loses the vote this afternoon. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:47 p.m.

President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen on Wednesday said he takes "full responsibility" for his actions before being sentenced to three years in prison.

Cohen in his hearing, which came after he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and lying to Congress, said that he is "getting my freedom back" after having lived in a "personal and mental incarceration" as a result of agreeing to work for Trump, per Courthouse News. While working for Trump, Cohen said he felt it was his "duty" to cover up his boss' "dirty deeds," and this "blind loyalty" to Trump caused him to "follow a path of darkness rather than light."

Cohen went on to apologize directly to the American people, saying, "You deserve to know the truth and lying to you was unjust." By pleading guilty, Cohen said he wants to ensure “that history will not remember me as the villain of [Trump's] story," CNN reports.

Judge William Pauley subsequently sentenced Cohen to three years in prison, saying that Cohen "appears to have lost his moral compass" and that he "should have known better," Bloomberg reports. Cohen reportedly shook his head as if in disbelief as the sentence was read. Brendan Morrow

12:15 p.m.

President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to 3 years in prison on Wednesday for lying to Congress and for financial crimes, Courthouse News' Adam Klasfield reports. He also has to pay a $100,000 fine, and the sentence will begin March 6, likely in a minimum-security prison.

At a Manhattan federal courthouse, Cohen was sentenced to 36 months, or 3 years, for his guilty plea to New York prosecutors' eight counts of tax evasion and campaign finance violations — financial crimes in which Cohen implicated Trump. He got 2 more months for his late November deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in which he pleaded guilty to the federal crime of lying to Congress about Trump's business dealings with Russia. The 2-month sentence will be served concurrently with the 36 months.

In sentencing recommendations filed Friday, Mueller's team recommended leniency given Cohen's subsequent cooperation with the probe into the Trump campaign's involvement with Russian election interference. Mueller's team also affirmed Wednesday that Cohen provided "credible" and "valuable information" to the investigation. But in Friday's recommendations, the Southern District of New York said Cohen committed "serious crimes worthy of meaningful punishment." A prosecutor speaking Wednesday said Cohen "didn't come anywhere close to assisting this office in an investigation."

Cohen's lawyer fought back against the Southern District in Wednesday's sentencing, saying his client "came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in our country." Still, the judge called each of Cohen's crimes "a serious offense against the United States," CNN says. Cohen on Wednesday said he took "responsibility" for his "blind loyalty to Donald Trump," per Courthouse News. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:54 a.m.

A Star Is Born and Black Panther seem poised to clean up in awards season.

The Screen Actors Guild awards nominations were released Wednesday, and in the top category of Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, the nominees are A Star Is Born, Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Crazy Rich Asians. History suggests that one of these films will win Best Picture at the Oscars, as it's rare for a movie to do so without first being nominated in this category. (Last year, however, The Shape of Water broke from that tradition by taking Best Picture after a SAG snub.) Roma, a Best Picture frontrunner, was not nominated, nor were other Best Picture hopefuls like Green Book, Vice, and If Beale Street Could Talk.

A Star Is Born earned four nominations, the most of any film, while Black Panther picked up a key nod after previously being recognized at the Golden Globe Awards and the Critics Choice Awards.

Meanwhile, the lead actor nominees are Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book), and John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman), while the lead actress nominees are Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), and Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?).

Emily Blunt got a second nomination in the best supporting actress category for A Quiet Place, with her fellow nominees being Amy Adams (Vice), Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots), Emma Stone (The Favourite), and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite).

In the television field, The Americans, Better Call Saul, The Handmaid's Tale, Ozark, and This Is Us were nominated in the top drama series category, while Atlanta, Barry, GLOW, The Kominsky Method, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel were nominated in the top comedy series category.

The 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will take place on Jan. 27. Read the full list of nominees at Variety. Brendan Morrow

10:51 a.m.

The new Democratic-controlled House that will take over in January is set to be the most diverse in history. Ann Coulter apparently thinks there's only one thing that ties them all together.

In a Tuesday appearance on Fox News' The Ingraham Angle, Coulter discussed a Tablet report that linked Women's March leaders to anti-semitism. The conservative author and pundit didn't seem surprised by the report, instead alleging that "we're going to be seeing a lot of these disputes in the Democratic Party base because they all hate one another."

Coulter went on to describe the Democratic Party's components as "the Muslims and the Jews and the various exotic sexual groups and the black church ladies with the college queers." The only thing these people "have in common," Coulter said, is that they all "hate white men."

Twitter lit up with angry responses, of course. And just for the record: Pew Research has found that 37 percent of white men "affiliate with or lean toward the Democratic Party." Kathryn Krawczyk

10:01 a.m.

We regret to inform you that people actually like Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) newly formed beard.

The "universally despised" senator returned to Washington, D.C. after Thanksgiving sporting a patchy something that some people called a beard. Now, it's been a few weeks, Cruz's facial hair is for real, and the world is reacting in an absurdly positive manner.

When Cruz first cracked a smile surrounded by some hair last month, The Cut speculated it might be a celebration of #NoShaveNovember. But November has ended and regrettably, the beard has not. Cruz's Friday appearance on the Senate floor prompted Slate to say his beard "looks great" and makes him "semi-hot." And a Fox News appearance Wednesday led CNN's Andrew Kaczynski to tweet "If Ted Cruz had this beard in 2016 he would have won" the presidential election. Even Chrissy Teigen conceded in Cruz's favor.

While it's nowhere near the improvement that hipster glasses brought to Energy Secretary Rick Perry's face, even the harshest of skeptics must admit Cruz's beard does disrupt a face a neurologist described as naturally unlikeable. The bigger question is why Cruz sprouted a beard now, after winning his surprisingly challenging Senate race with Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas). Perhaps it's because the Texas GOP's reminder that O'Rourke once had a goatee famously backfired, and Cruz has been studying O'Rourke's face on plane rides ever since. Kathryn Krawczyk

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