Posts tagged with "The Daily Beast"

Nancy Pelosi names Adam Kinzinger to January 6 Committee

July 27, 2021

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) announced on Sunday morning, July 25, that she intends to name another Republican to the House select committee to investigate the January 6 Capitol insurrection—saying her “plan” was to choose Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois), reports The Daily Beast.

Last week, Pelosi made the unprecedented move of rejecting two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s appointments to the committee; claiming the inclusion of Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Indiana) was “ridiculous” —and that they “wouldn’t take the process seriously.”

Both congressmen have been vocal supporters of former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen and objected to Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory, The Daily Beast says.

McCarthy, meanwhile, pulled the other three Republicans he had recommended for the committee over Pelosi’s rejection of Jordan and Banks, leaving Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming)—whom Pelosi herself had appointed to the group—as the only Republican. Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection, was recently booted from her GOP leadership position for pushing back against Trump’s election lies.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Pelosi said her confidence was “very high” that the committee’s work would be seen as credible despite Republicans’ refusal to participate in the process.

“I believe the work of this committee, in order to retain the confidence of the American people, must act in a way that has no partisanship, is all about patriotism and I’m very proud of the members of the committee and I’m certain they will accomplish that goal,” the Speaker said, adding, “We have to, again, ignore the antics of those who do not want to find the truth.”

Anchor George Stephanopoulos then asked Pelosi if she intended to appoint more Republicans to the committee, specifically singling out Kinzinger, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s stolen election rhetoric.

“That’s my plan,” she replied, prompting the ABC News host to wonder aloud when she’d make that announcement.

“Perhaps after I speak to Adam Kinzinger,” she declared. “You could say that that’s the direction that I would be going on.”

Hours after Pelosi’s on-air remarks, Kinzinger’s place on the committee was made official. “He brings great patriotism to the Committee’s mission: to find the facts and protect our Democracy,” Pelosi said of the Illinois congressman in a statement announcing his appointment.

Kinzinger, for his part, said in a statement that he “humbly accepted” the appointment and that he “will work diligently to ensure we get to the truth and hold those responsible for the attack fully accountable.”

Just like Cheney, Kinzinger voted to impeach the ex-president over his role in inciting a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol in order to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s election win. The Illinois congressman and Cheney also were the only House Republicans to vote for the formation of the January 6 select committee, which was formed after the GOP blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the attack.

Research contact: @TheDailyBeast

New TrumpWorld social media site, Gettr, is hacked, mocked, and trolled with Hedgehog porn

July 9, 2021

Former Trump spokesperson Jason Miller launched a new social media platform called Gettr late last week, only to see it quickly mocked online, particularly for its uninspired name.

Following the flops of such right-wing sites as Gab, Parler, and Mike Lindell’s Frank, Miller presented Gettr  to the public as a way to solve conservatives’ S problems on social media—but, the launch encountered a series of challenges, from hackers scraping troves of users’ private data to leftists trolling the platform with NSFW Sonic the Hedgehog content, Salon reports. 

Last Thursday, Politico was the first to report on Gettr’s plans to go live. A team of former Trump campaign associates helped to kickstart the new right-wing app, which announced itself as aimed at “fighting cancel culture, promoting common sense, defending free speech, challenging social media monopolies, and creating a true marketplace of ideas.” 

While ridicule indeed followed, many in TrumpWorld showed up at the half-developed website, including Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, former Trump White House aide Sebastian Gorka, and a plethora of former Trump campaign staffers.

Soon thereafter, The Daily Beast uncovered that Miller’s entire venture was being funded by fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok, who is friendly with various TrumpWorld figures, most notably Steve Bannon. But before the dust even got a chance to settle, Gettr became the target of hackers who saw the site security as laughable.

According to Salon, on the morning of July 4—the day the site was slated for its grand launch— the site was hacked by a somewhat friendly hacker who defaced usernames on top accounts, including those of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; American Conservative Union chairman Matt ;Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene; and Jason Miller, himself.

“JubaBaghdad was here, follow me in twitter :),” the hacker wrote, as first reported by Salon. The hacker told Salon that the breach took him less than 20 minutes to carry out in subsequent conversations. “Took from me 20 minutes to find them. And I’m sure I can find more if I spent more time,” the anonymous hacker shared. 

The following day, on Monday, the hacker reached back out to Salon with a lengthy list of other points of concern on Gettr, including “a dangerous bug in their API server,” which the hacker said was an access point where he was able to uncover information including “email, birthdate, and location.”

The hacker, known on Twitter as “JubaBaghdad,” offered as proof that he or she was able to access accurate information scraped from this Salon reporter’s Gettr account, created only days earlier. The hacker stressed that Gettr remains open to attacks.

Miller didn’t respond to Salon’s request for an interview, nor to the offer of answering questions by email.

In public statements, Miller has claimed that Gettr was poised to challenge the “woke tyranny” of Big Tech, a major villain in the conservative universe.

“GETTR is a direct challenge to the social media oligarchs from Silicon Valley, and what better day to declare independence from their woke tyranny than July 4th?” Miller declared. “GETTR is the marketplace of ideas. We will not cancel people for their political opinions, and GETTR offers far more features and better technology than anything else out there.”

But this sales pitch evidently made little impact on Donald Trump, Miller’s former boss, who evidently has no plans to join the right-wing platform anytime soon.

Research contact: @Salon

Trump’s claims of ‘tax genius’ may undermine his legal defense of ‘ignorance’

July 8, 2021

Former President Donald Trump has claimed for years to be “a master of the tax code.” But now—faced with charges leveled against the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg, by New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.—Trump is going with a legal defense of ignorance.

Experts say his past comments may be his undoing, The Daily Beast reports.

Faced with an indictment of his family’s business empire for criminal tax fraud, former President Donald Trump previewed a defense strategy—of sorts—last weekend: ignorance of the law.

“I don’t even know. Does anybody know the answer to that stuff?” he shrugged on Saturday, July 3, in front of adoring fans at a political rally in Sarasota, Florida.

The twice-impeached former president’s remarks provoked a flurry of reactions from some legal commentators and pundits, who saw a besieged client running his mouth in public, and potentially undermining his legal team’s carefully manicured strategies.

But Trump wasn’t so much upturning his legal defense as much as he was delivering his sloppy rendition of it, The Daily Beast says.

According to two people familiar with the matter, lawyers representing him and the Trump Organization are preparing to include this very point in court arguments, given how much the specific intent of an individual matters in areas of New York tax law.

And yet, former prosecutors and defense lawyers who have tried criminal tax cases in New York City told The Daily Beast that Trump, his family, and company executives face a steep hill—and it’s mostly due to Trump himself.

“To a certain extent, not knowing the law is a defense… It’s one of the only defenses in a case like this,” said Tess Cohen, a former New York prosecutor. “But I have trouble believing that’ll get very far.”

That’s because, for years, Trump has called himself “king of the tax code.”

“Nobody knows the tax code better than I do… I’m like a student of the tax code,” he said during a 60 Minutes interview in 2015. He repeated that sentiment on MSNBC and later told supporters in Tampa: “I know more about taxes than any human being that God ever created.”

Trump’s attorney Ronald Fischetti did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Should this investigation make its way to trial, prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney and New York State attorney general would certainly want to question Trump under oath for hours, legal scholars said. The result would be “devastating” for his defense, said Carl Bornstein, a former New York prosecutor who now teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“Those prior inconsistent statements will undermine his claim of lack of knowledge on cross-examination,” he said.

Behind the scenes, the ex-president has insisted that New York prosecutors are out to hurt his business and to try to poison the Trump Organization’s dealings with other companies. In the past few weeks, Trump has encouraged people close to him to publicly claim that his family business is thriving, according to two people familiar with his request.

In recent private conversations, the former president has lamented that further investigation into him and others at the Trump Organization could potentially stretch on for years, adding to his hefty and growing pile of legal bills.

As Trump continues to weigh running for president again in 2024, any increased pressure or potential indictments from New York prosecutors could hobble another lengthy campaign. Still, several longtime advisers to Trump have reassured him that the vast core of Republican voters will not abandon him, should he choose to run again, and that the probes in his home state merely reinforce their devotion.

“The numbers don’t change. Rock solid,” John McLaughlin, who worked as one of Trump’s top pollsters during the 2016 and 2020 campaigns, said, citing his own recent polling data. “Attacks on President Trump galvanize his base.”

When the IRS hunts someone down for refusing to pay taxes, government lawyers don’t have to show intent. But this legal battle is taking place in New York, where state laws require prosecutors to prove that someone was “willfully engaging” in tax fraud.

It’s a higher bar, but not an insurmountable one—especially when it seems that investigators have specific documents that would indicate a concerted effort to conceal the truth.

The 25-page indictment says investigators have “internal spreadsheets” that show exactly how unreported perks replaced employee income, Cohen, the former New York prosecutor, noted.

“Simultaneously, the Trump Organization reduced the amount of direct compensation that Weisselberg received in the form of checks or direct deposits to account for the indirect compensation that he received in the form of payments of rent, utility bills, and garage expenses,” the indictment claims.

“You can’t get much better evidence than that,” Cohen said.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

The Secret Service is spending over $34,000 on fancy porta potty rentals in Bedminster this summer

June 3, 2021

The U.S. Secret Service is spending nearly $35,000 to rent portable outdoor toilets for the next four months in Bedminster, New Jersey—so that the security detail can be “privy” to former president #45, who reportedly is summering at the Trump Natonal Golf Club.

The cost of the lavish lavatories has been confirmed by federal procurement data reviewed by The Daily Beast.

“BATHROOM TRAILERS BEDMINSTER,” the expenditure states. “A NOTICE TO PROCEED WAS GIVEN ON MAY 24, 2021.” The contract will run through September 30, which works out to rental costs of about $8,500 per month. Imperial Restrooms of Saugerties, New York, is supplying the rolling commodes.

Trump moved in late May from his winter digs at The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, to his Bedminster golf club, sources told CNN. He will reside there until early fall, the outlet reported, citing a senior member of Trump’s team.

On May 22, Trump appeared at a fundraiser at the Bedminster club for Make America Great Again Action, a pro-Trump super PAC run by former campaign manager and longtime adviser Corey Lewandowski. Tickets for the dinner and reception reportedly started at $250,000.

“Even now, taxpayers continue to spend many thousands of dollars to facilitate Donald Trump’s businesses,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director of watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington and a former federal prosecutor, told The Daily Beast. “He is, of course, entitled to protection—but from the beginning, it has been about his advancement and convenience, rather than what is good for the country. Forcing taxpayers to spend all of this money for porta potties at a business that surely has sufficient bathrooms is confounding.”

The Secret Service did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Beast.

During his time in office, Trump’s large family and their frequent travel put an unprecedented financial burden on the Secret Service, which in 2017 ran out of money to pay its agents.

Ordinarily, The Daily Beast notes, a former president’s adult children are no longer entitled to Secret Service protection. But before leaving office, Trump quietly ordered an additional six months of security beyond his term for 13 members of his family and at least three Trump appointees: ex-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; ex-National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien; and former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has come under fire in the past for lavish travel spending on the taxpayer dime.

In the first month after leaving the White House, Trump’s adult children cost taxpayers more than $140,000 in travel costs linked to their Secret Service details.

In 2017, Imperial Restrooms, which says it offers clients “an upscale, portable restroom experience,” was tapped for a three-week bathroom rental at Bedminster, costing taxpayers $7,100. The company has been awarded about $1.2 million in U.S. government contracts over the past four years.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Hanging Rudy out to dry: Trump has blown off Giuliani’s pleas for help as feds circle

May 18, 2021

In the weeks since the feds raided Rudy Giuliani’s apartment and office in late April, close allies have tried to ferry a slew of emergency requests to former President Donald Trump and his advisers.

But according to three people familiar with the matter, Trump, as well as several of his legal advisers and longtime confidants, have been hesitant about swooping in to help the embattled Giuliani, who for years worked as Trump’s personal lawyer, a political adviser, and attack dog, The Daily Beast reports.

Indeed, Giuliani also served as a major player in the Trump-Ukraine scandal and as a key driver in the former president’s efforts to nullify Joe Biden’s clear victory in the 2020 election.

Team Trump’s reluctance to intervene comes at a time when federal investigators have ramped up their probe into whether Giuliani’s Ukraine-related work during the Trump Administration amounted to an unregistered and illegal lobbying operation on behalf of foreign figures. So far, no charges have been brought against the former New York City mayor as a result of this investigation, which began in 2019.

Trump’s silence has led to simmering frustrations among members of Giuliani’s inner orbit, who privately allege that the ex-president’s team is working to convince him to hang Giuliani out to dry in his hour of need, says The Daily Beast.

“It’s a question now of whether or not [the former president and his team] want to leave Rudy to fend for himself or if they’re going to take a stand against this,” one person close to Giuliani said last week. “Right now, we don’t know.”

Among Giuliani allies’ pleas, the three sources said, have been for Trump to issue a strong verbal or written statement saying Giuliani’s work during the Trump-Ukraine saga was done on behalf of then-President Trump—and therefore not part of an illegal foreign lobbying effort. In other words, Trump’s corroboration would be more than good public relations for Giuliani, it would back up a key pillar of Giuliani’s legal argument that he wasn’t lobbying and is innocent of the allegations.

Other asks have included having the ex-president sign on to a legal motion to have federal investigators throw out any seized communications that Giuliani and his lawyers argue are covered by attorney-client privilege. Further, there have been repeated requests that Trump and his team financially aid Giuliani’s ballooning legal defense and help cover the mounting, sizable expenses.

Two people close to Trump say they have urged the former president to lay low on the matter and to refrain from making too many statements or commitments on Giuliani and the federal probe.

These people have told Trump that it’s unclear what the feds have and that any statement could backfire both on him and on Giuliani. They have been trying to convince the former president for years that Giuliani has been too great a liability for him, and they have suggested that he cut the lawyer loose.

Many of them still blame Giuliani and his Ukraine shenanigans for getting Trump impeached the first time, and the attorney helped lead the Trumpworld and GOP charge in falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from the 45th U.S. president.

In the aftermath of the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, both Trump and Giuliani have been slammed with lawsuit after lawsuit over their roles in firing up the mob that committed the anti-democratic assa, The Daily Beast notes.

In recent weeks, Trump himself has argued behind closed doors that he wouldn’t want to say Giuliani was doing all of the Ukraine work—which included a trans-Atlantic dirt-digging expedition on the Biden family that led to Trump’s first impeachment—on Trump’s behalf, according to one of the people close to the former president. Trump’s reasoning, this source relayed, is based in the ex-president’s insistence that he didn’t always know what Giuliani was doing during the Ukraine effort or concocting with his Ukrainian pals, several of whom Trump has privately dinged

The two sources close to the former president each said Trump has repeatedly expressed sympathy for Giuliani’s ongoing woes but has not committed to overtly assisting his personal lawyer yet. Another person familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast that Giuliani has said he remains convinced that Trump won’t abandon him and will step up when the time is right.

Research contact: @thedauilybeast

Curtain call: Ellen DeGeneres to leave her talk show after 19th season

May 13, 2021

Ellen DeGeneres has decided to step away from her popular talk show after her upcoming 19th season, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The longtime host announced the news to her team on Tuesday, May 11, according to the outlet

“When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged—and as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore,” the 63-year-old said.

However, there may be a more clearcut reason: The show—which currently is in its 18th season—has suffered a ratings decline that many say is a direct result of the accusations of a “toxic workplace culture” that were leveled at  DeGeneres last summer.

DeGeneres will discuss her departure in her opening monologue for her show on Thursday, May 13, The Daily Beast confirmed. The comedienne will also have Oprah Winfrey on as a guest to chat about the decision.

The news was first reported by the Daily Mail, as a source claimed the DeGeneres “knew her time is up.” “The show has bled viewers since the toxic environment around Ellen and her show was made public,” the UK-based news outlet said.

Last summer, DeGeneres faced a public reckoning over claims that she ran a toxic workplace environment—with nearly a dozen current and former employees coming forward with various accounts.

According to The Daily Best, they described racist comments made by other staffers and intimidation tactics. Some claimed they were fired from their positions after taking medical and bereavement leave.

As a result, DeGeneres’ ratings tanked, and the one-time queen of daytime talk shows found herself in an unfamiliar position. This year her audience plummeted by 1.1 million, a drastic 43%  decline.

A humbled DeGeneres, who often signed off her show with the mantra “be kind,” was forced to make three apologies, one on-air, another in an email to staff, and a third in a video call.

“I learned that things happen here that never should have happened,” she said on her show last September. “I take that very seriously. And I want to say, I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power. And I realized that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.”

DeGeneres claimed to The Hollywood Reporter that her abysmal ratings had nothing to do with her decision to leave, saying she originally wanted to stop doing the show in its 16th season. Instead, she was convinced to stick around for a little bit longer. “We [settled] on three more years and I knew that would be my last. That’s been the plan all along.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Denver will get All-Star Game after MLB dumps Atlanta over voter-suppression laws

April 7, 2021

Coors Field in Denver reportedly has been chosen to host this year’s All-Star Game on July 13 after Major League Baseball decided to pull the event from Atlanta over Georgia’s new voter-suppression laws, The Daily Beast reports.

Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred issued the following statement: “”Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views. I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”

The new, restrictive voting legislation—signed last week by Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp, imposes ID requirements for absentee ballots; and makes it illegal to approach voters to give them food and water as they wait in line to cast their ballots.

Although the move hasn’t been officially confirmed, leaders in Colorado already are buzzing with excitement that the game might be coming back to Denver for the first time since 1998, The Daily Beast notes.

Democratic Colorado Governor Jared Polis said: “I’m excited and hopeful that Major League Baseball makes the best decision and formally chooses to play the 2021 All-Star game in Denver.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Daily Beast: Harry and Meghan did not have a secret backyard wedding

March 25, 2021

A bizarre claim made by Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, during her March 7 interview with Oprah Winfrey—avowing that that she and Prince Harry had gotten married in their own backyard three days before the royal wedding—has been invalidated by The Daily Beast—which, through it’s royal correspondent Tom Sykes, offered a formal clarification this week.

Meghan, 39, said in the interview, “You know, three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that. The vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

However, a spokesperson for the couple conceded Monday that “the couple [only] exchanged personal vows a few days before their official/legal wedding on May 19.”

The belated admission on the record, which follows several anonymous briefings to journalists, marks the end of a tortuous saga that began when Meghan told Oprah she and Harry tied the knot “in our backyard” three days before the $50 million public wedding on May 19, 2018.

The claim was much disputed, not least because in the United Kingdom a minimum of two witnesses are needed for a legal marriage to take place.

According to The Daily Beast, others argued Meghan was merely making the point that for them that, as a couple,it was more important to make a personal than a public commitment—and that the focus on discrepancies and inaccuracies in the interview was a deliberate strategy by Meghan’s detractors to undermine her wider credibility and the specific claim that “concerns” over her baby’s likely skin color were expressed to Harry.

The formal admission to The Daily Beast that no marriage took place in advance of the official ceremony comes after the marriage certificate document was obtained by the British newspaper the Sunthe paper paid £42 (about $58) to obtain a copy from Britain’s General Register Office.

The certificate, which gives the witnesses as Prince Charles and Meghan’s mom Doria Ragland, confirmed the couple were, indeed, married on May 19, 2018, at Windsor Castle.

Stephen Borton, former chief clerk at the Faculty Office, told the Sun, “I’m sorry, but Meghan is obviously confused and clearly misinformed. They did not marry three days earlier in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“The Special License I helped draw up enabled them to marry at St George’s Chapel in Windsor and what happened there on 19 May 2018 and was seen by millions around the world was the official wedding as recognized by the Church of England and the law.”

The certificate lists Harry as “single” and his occupation as a “Prince of the United Kingdom” and Meghan as “divorced” and an “actor.” Her dad, Thomas Markle, is described as a “lighting director” and Charles is described as a “Prince of the United Kingdom.”

The archbishop’s office has refused to comment.

The misleading claim originally made by Meghan was the cause of some disquiet. As The Daily Beast reported last week, Mark Edwards, a priest from Newcastle, said he checked with the archbishop’s office and was told that the claim that they got married in the back garden of their home may have been the result of a misunderstanding stemming from the fact that “Meghan is an American.”

Rev. Mark Edwards has told his local paper in Newcastle that he contacted Archbishop Justin Welby’s office to “get some clarity” on the claim after the couple mentioned it in their Oprah Winfrey interview.

He said he was motivated in part to do so because he has been flooded with requests for private or outdoor weddings during lockdown that he has not been able to fulfill, because the law states that Church of England weddings must take place in “a certified place of worship” and cannot be conducted outside.

Edwards said the person he spoke to told him, “Justin had a private conversation with the couple in the garden about the wedding, but I can assure you, no wedding took place until the televised national event.”

Edwards said it was “in the public interest for the leader of the church to put the record straight.”

Now that Meghan’s people have done so, the infinitely more serious accusations of racism within the royal family can be examined with less distraction.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Could ‘Pig Royalty’ be the new Kardashians? Inside reality TV’s wild new show

March 22, 2021

The final season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians began on March 18—but don’t despair: There’s a new reality show that viewers will go “hog-wild” over, The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon reports.

The Kardashians spent 14 years transforming the genre—but as their swan-song season unfolds and they plan their next moves, viewers’ can easily shift their focus to a new class of possible reality-TV royalty. Specifically, Pig Royalty.

Fallon rhapsodizes about the new series: “Am I trolling by suggesting that the new Discovery+ series about competition pig showing in Texas might be the successor to one in which the only wrangling a family of millionaires in Calabasas has to do is of their glam squads?” he asks, then answers, “Of course. But that’s not to distract from the point that Pig Royaltywhich premieres March 23 on both the streaming service and the Discovery Channel—is an addictive delight, and certainly a descendant of the kind of television that the Kardashians have wrought.”

According to a description of the new show by Discover, audiences will enter the extreme world of pig show competitions and follow the rivalry between two unforgettable families: the Baleros, who have reigned supreme for years; and the Rihns, who want to take them down and become the next great pig dynasty. The two families traverse Texas, competing for the ultimate prizes: money; scholarships; big, shiny belt buckles that “crown” you the winner—and all the bragging rights that go with them. Don’t let the southern smiles and hospitality fool you: The stakes are high and family legacies are on the line.

The Daily Beast’s Fallon says the real, home-grown pig handlers will pull you in and leave you asking for more, noting, “The rivalries between the show’s two main competing families, there’s something Shakespearean… and Mean Girls-esque… and, when it comes to three catty sisters with their hair teased up to be closer to Jesus, yes, some definite Kardashian vibes, too. ”

“The smell of pig shit is one of a kind,” Jody Rihn, matriarch of the Rihn family and owner of one of the show’s two main teams, narrates in the pilot. “It’s not like cow shit. It’s not like dog shit. It’s got it’s own distinct smell that is awful. I don’t care how many times you wash it, the smell doesn’t go away. But it smells like money to us.”

There are tens of thousands of dollars at stake in each competition. One of the Rihn girls made $30,000 her senior year of high school from showing pigs, which she put toward college. McKayla Balero, of the rival Balero family, earned $65,000. Suddenly, the high stakes make sense.

And, oh yes, there are whispers of “juicing” pig feed to gain advantage. One of the Balero sisters is accused of sleeping with a judge.

But what the show really owes the Kardashians is the strength of the family bond that pulses through the series, Fallon says. “These are people who have likely been schooled on decades of reality TV, and they know how to give a good sound bite and drum up drama and scandal. But they also form a heartwarming, uniting front against the pressures of a surprisingly high-octane world. Sooie, bring on the pig drama.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Senate approves $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill after chaotic all-night debate

March 9, 2021

“This is the biggest thing that most of us have ever been involved in,” Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told The Daily Beast on Saturday afternoon, March 6—after a staggering 25 hours of debate and compromise ended in the passage on the Senate floor of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The bill passed 50-49, along party lines—with Senator Dan Sullivan (Alaska-R) absent for a family funeral. Because the bill encompasses some modifications to the original legislation, it now will go back to the House on Tuesday for a final vote. It is expected to pass easily there, before reaching President Joe Biden’s desk for signature into law.

“The American Rescue Plan will go down as one of the most sweeping federal recovery efforts in history,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said shortly before final passage, adding that he wanted the American people to know “help is on the way. That their government is going to give them one final push to get us over the finish line.”

Biden praised the bill’s passage at the White House, saying “When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people help was on the way. Today I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise, that help is on the way. Everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation and put us in a better position to prevail.”

The president reinforced, “Over 85% of American households will get direct payments of $1,400 per person.  For a typical middle-class family of four—husband and wife working, making $100,000 a year total, with three kids—they’ll get $5,600—I mean, with two kids —will get $5,600, and it’ll be on the way soon.”

According to a report by The Daily Beast, “The process wasn’t meant to be easy, but the bill’s journey to passage was downright shambolic, even by congressional standards. The Senate was in session for over 24 hours, voting, debating, and considering amendments to the mammoth legislation.”

The Daily Beast attributed much of the delay to pushback from one member, centrist Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), whose reservations about the bill’s unemployment benefits unexpectedly froze the floor for nearly 12 hours on Friday, as Democratic leadership and the White House frantically worked him to support the latest deal.

Manchin ultimately got on board with the party’s preferred amendment to the unemployment plan, which reduces monthly jobless benefits to $300; but extends them an additional month. However, he also supported a GOP plan to keep benefits at $400 but cut them off in June—an amendment that passed, but will be superseded by the Democratic plan, aides said.

The bill includes:

  • Stimulus checks of up to $1,400 for hundreds of millions of American adults and children;
  • Weekly jobless aid of $300 until September 6;
  • Child tax credit of up to $3,600 per child;
  • $130 billion for school reopenings.
  • $350 billion for state and local governments;
  • $30 billion in assistance for renters and landlords;
  • $50 billion for small businesses; and
  • $160 billion for vaccine development.

Democrats want Biden’s signature on the bill to be dry before March 14, when current pandemic unemployment benefits expire for millions of Americans. House progressives, who fought for a $15 wage and expansive benefits, have been inclined to back whatever the Senate sends them—but some found their limits tested by the power play from Manchin and moderates.

Commenting on the changes from the House bill, Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-New Jersey) asked on Twitter, “What are we doing here? I’m frankly disgusted with some of my colleagues and question whether I can support this bill.”

Internal Democratic bargaining wasn’t the only reason that the de facto March 14 deadline is closer than many Democrats would like. Staunch Republican opposition has slowed it down: On Thursday, Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconin) forced the Senate’s clerks to read every word of the nearly 700-page bill aloud on the floor—an exercise in raw obstructionism that delayed the chamber’s consideration of the bill by over 10 hours.

While past iterations of COVID relief have been largely bipartisan, Republicans have coalesced around opposing Biden’s first major legislative effort on the grounds it is too pricey, not targeted enough to the neediest people, and full of so-called “blue state bailouts” to local governments—although many Republican-run jurisdictions would receive relief funds, The Daily Beast notes.

Shortly before the voting spree, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) put the onus on Democrats for breaking the “bipartisan streak” of pandemic relief. “They are dead-set on ramming through an ideological spending spree packed with non-COVID-related policies,” he charged.

Democrats explained away their lack of GOP support by frequently citing public opinion polling showing that a bipartisan majority of Americans backed their plan. A Morning Consult/POLITICO poll from Wednesday, March3,  found that 77% of all voters, and over half of GOP voters, backed the plan, even when it was labeled as a Democratic proposal.

Research contact: @thedailybeast