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The Matt Gaetz Problem That GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy Wishes Would Just Go Away

Despite a seemingly daily string of new revelations, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) pressed ahead Thursday with his position that Rep. Matt Gaetz should retain his seats on the Armed Services and Judiciary Committees.

“Matt Gaetz is the same as any American—he’s innocent until proven guilty,” McCarthy said Thursday. “There’s no charges against him yet. If a charge comes forward, that would be dealt with at that time.”

Gaetz, who’s currently under federal investigation for his involvement with an alleged sex ring, also faces a probe from the House Ethics Committee for a litany of potential violations.

“The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds for personal use, and/or accepted a bribe/improper gratuity, or impermissible gift in violation of House rules,” the Ethics Committee wrote in a letter last week.

But McCarthy continues to insist that everyone needs to “wait for the facts” before Gaetz faces any internal repercussions in Congress, even as he’s insisted that Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) should be stripped of committee assignments for having repeated contact with a woman who turned out to be a Chinese government operative. Swalwell cut off contact as soon as he became aware of the situation, and there are no allegations that he broke any law.

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U.S. Intel Walks Back Claim Russians Put Bounties on American Troops

It was a blockbuster story about Russia’s return to the imperial “Great Game” in Afghanistan. The Kremlin had spread money around the longtime central Asian battlefield for militants to kill remaining U.S. forces. It sparked a massive outcry from Democrats and their #resistance amplifiers about the treasonous Russian puppet in the White House whose admiration for Vladimir Putin had endangered American troops.

But on Thursday, the Biden administration announced that U.S. intelligence only had “low to moderate” confidence in the story after all. Translated from the jargon of spyworld, that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven—and possibly untrue.

“The United States intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019 and perhaps earlier,” a senior administration official said.

U.S. intelligence only had ‘low to moderate’ confidence in the story. Translated from the jargon of spyworld, that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven—and possibly untrue.

“This information puts a burden on the Russian government to explain its actions and take steps to address this disturbing pattern of behavior,” the official said, indicating that Biden is unprepared to walk the story back fully.

Significantly, the Biden team announced a raft of sanctions on Thursday. But those sanctions, targeting Russia’s sovereign debt market, are prompted only by Russia’s interference in the 2020 election and its alleged role in the SolarWinds cyber espionage. (In contrast, Biden administration officials said that their assessment attributing the breach of technology company SolarWinds to hackers from Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service was “high confidence.”)

“We have noted our conclusion of the review that we conducted on the bounties issue and we have conveyed through diplomatic, intelligence, and military channels strong, direct messages on this issue, but we are not specifically tying the actions we are taking today to that matter,” a senior administration official told reporters in reference to the bounty claims.

According to the officials on Thursday’s call, the reporting about the alleged “bounties” came from “detainee reporting” – raising the specter that someone told their U.S.-aligned Afghan jailers what they thought was necessary to get out of a cage. Specifically, the official cited “information and evidence of connections to criminal agents in Afghanistan and elements of the Russian government” as sources for the intelligence community’s assessment.

Without additional corroboration, such reporting is notoriously unreliable. Detainee reporting from a man known as Ibn Shaikh al-Libi, extracted from torture, infamously and bogusly fueled a Bush administration claim, used to invade Iraq, about Saddam Hussein training al-Qaeda to make poison gas.

The senior Biden official added on Thursday that the “difficult operating environment in Afghanistan” complicated U.S. efforts to confirm what amounts to a rumor.

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The Lucas Brothers Reveal the Real Hero of ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

Keith and Kenny Lucas, the twin comedians better known as the Lucas Brothers, had been trying to turn the story of Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton into a movie for years before anyone started taking them seriously.

“We went around town, pitched the idea and got a bunch of rejections,” Kenny Lucas explains on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast. Then they met director Shaka King on a TV pilot project that never came to be. As Kenny explains, “He was directing and we were acting in it.”

“I wouldn’t call that acting,” Keith Lucas chimes in with a laugh.

“Shaka was doing his best with our acting ability, but we became friends and we felt very comfortable going to him with our idea and we pitched it to him and he fucking dug it,” Kenny adds. “And then the rest is history, man.”

Judas and the Black Messiah premiered on HBO Max in February and at this month’s Oscars it’s up for five awards, including Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Screenplay for the script, which is credited to the Lucas Brothers along with King and co-writer Will Berson.

The other two nominations both fall in the Best Supporting Actor category where frontrunner Daniel Kaluuya as “Black Messiah” Hampton will compete against his co-star Lakeith Stanfield as the film’s “Judas,” FBI informant William O’Neal. Even Stanfield appeared puzzled by the surprise nomination since he had been competing as the film’s lead, posting on Instagram, “I’m confused too but fuck it lmao.”

If the two title characters are both “supporting” players, then does Judas and the Black Messiah even have a protagonist? The Lucas Brothers use their hilariously dark senses of humor to answer that question and everything else we wanted to know about their unique journey from stand-up comedy to the Oscars.

Below is an excerpt from our conversation and you can listen to the whole thing—including how the twin comedy duo almost “split up” and the huge movie projects they have coming up with Judd Apatow and Seth MacFarlaneright now by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Tuesday.

Do you think that some of the resistance that you were facing [with Judas and the Black Messiah] had to do with the fact that you are known as comedians and that this is not a comedic story?

Keith: Oh yeah. I’m sure there was some apprehension from other executives because we were comedians

Kenny: And we’re not just comedians, we’re comedians who smoke weed. “Should we trust them with 20 million dollars?”

When you call your stand-up special On Drugs you’re kind of setting yourself up for that.

Keith: Yeah, you’re not being subtle. So yeah, I’m sure there was a lot of apprehension and rightfully so. And also this was our first time pitching a movie like this to the industry. So we weren’t great at it.

Kenny: It was a comedy of errors, but the best decision we made was hooking up with Shaka.

Keith: I mean, he’s one of the best out right now. And we were fortunate enough to just get that opportunity to work with thim and realize that he’s the person that was going to get us over the hump. So it worked out perfectly.

So you said you were familiar with Fred Hampton’s story for a long time. You have this comedy background, but you also both went to, or at least started, law school. Do you feel like even that limited experience informed your ability to really dig into this story?

Kenny: Oh yeah. I think as I hated law school, it made me a much more principled researcher. Law school made me love footnotes. I mean Mank got his own movie and 10 Academy Award nominations. I wouldn’t say he’s a footnote, but he is a footnote in reference to Orson Welles. So that kind of like mentality of looking for those small stories I think I got from law school. And I would say that that helped us find William O’Neal’s story for sure.

So that’s sort of the other side of the coin. If you knew about Fred Hampton, then when did you find out about Bill O’Neal and decide that he was going to be such a big part of the story?

Keith: So we found out about Bill, it must have been around 2012, 2013. When you learn about Fred Hampton, you learn about some key moments. You know the FBI was involved with his assassination, but you don’t really know the details. So we started reading this book The Assassination of Fred Hampton by Jeffrey Haas and there were a couple of pages dedicated to William O’Neal and his story. And it just sparked intrigue immediately. We just started thinking, wow, this kind of feels like an espionage story. Then there was a transcript that we found of the Eyes on the Prize interview, the interview that’s featured in the film, and we were like, this is a crime thriller! How he got recruited, how he infiltrated, The social political context, how he described it during the time and his admiration for Fred Hampton. It was just a lot in there that we felt could work as a film.

The film has been described as radical. And to me, what makes it so radical is the fact that it is this compulsively, entertaining crime thriller that anyone, whether you’re interested in this subject matter or not, is going to find entertaining. And then through that, you’re getting all these ideas in there. So was that something that you guys really thought about? Like, we want to make this appealing to as wide an audience as possible?

Kenny: We wanted to make a film that people watched. I think that that’s a part of the compromise that you make when you’re doing art. This is a business and you want it to reach as many people as possible. But in that intention, there was also an intention to ensure that we properly represented Fred’s message so that the film does work as a sort of didactic piece of art where you can learn something.

We wanted to make a film that people watched. I think that that’s a part of the compromise that you make when you’re doing art.

Yeah and a lot of people have been able to see it especially because it ended up on HBO Max. I’m sure there are some mixed feelings about that in terms of it being a movie that you imagined being in the theaters and then ended up on this streaming service. But I think there is something positive about it in that it probably reached a lot of people that may not have seeked it out in theaters otherwise.

Keith: Absolutely. HBO Max played a large role in allowing for people who probably wouldn’t have gone to the theater to see it, to watch it. And ultimately, that’s a good thing. We want a lot of people watching the film by any means necessary.

I was wondering if you guys started hearing from people the morning of the Oscar nominations when it had suddenly disappeared from HBO Max.

Kenny: Yeah, excellent timing on the part of Warner Brothers. I’m sure they weren’t expecting the six nominations.

Keith: I think it’s something they learned in business school, like counterintuitive marketing, some Harvard Business School stuff where they take the product away during the height of advertising.

Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah

HBO Max

The other obviously huge surprise Oscar morning, probably the thing that got the most attention, was the double nomination for Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya in Best Supporting Actor. And the joke that morning was like, wait a minute, if they’re both in the title of the movie and they’re both supporting actors, then who’s the lead of this movie? So now that I have you guys, the writers, I have to ask you, who’s the protagonist of this movie?

Keith: I say it’s a hero’s journey for capitalism. Capitalism wins at the end of the day, so I would say capitalism’s the lead.

Kenny: Yeah, I think it’s an ensemble piece, but it’s told through the perspective of William O’Neal. So he’s our main character. The lead/supporting thing is a sort of an artificial distinction created by awards organizations. So sometimes we superimpose that on how we’re supposed to do narratives and it becomes a de facto way we see storytelling. But it’s an artifice.

Yeah. I mean, Lakeith seemed confused as well about how he ended up in supporting actor.

Keith: You know, ultimately a nomination is a nomination. I mean, they were all sort of supporting this larger narrative that we were trying to tell. So I can see the argument why they are supporting characters.

If they had nominated Martin Sheen [who plays FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover] as best lead actor, then you would know there was a problem.

Keith: [laughs] Now, that would have been a big surprise.

Kenny: That would have been a shocker!

Next week on ‘The Last Laugh’ podcast: ‘Broad City’ co-creator and co-star Abbi Jacobson.

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The Post-9/11 Era Is Ending and the Tech War With China Is Beginning

The unspoken but crystal clear message delivered by the leaders of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) at the Annual Threat Assessment hearings conducted on Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee is that the post-9/11 era is over.

It is not entirely coincidental that the hearings took place on the same day that President Biden announced that the pullout of U.S. forces from Afghanistan would be concluded by Sept. 11 of this year, exactly 20 years after the al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. During those two decades, the focus of America’s national security community has largely been on the threats posed by foreign violent extremists, on our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on efforts by rival powers to take advantage of our being distracted and depleted by those costly conflicts. While there was an effort during the past several years by the Intelligence Community to shift the focus to threats posed by emerging rival state actors, this year’s hearing, in conjunction with Biden’s announcement, marked a substantive watershed.

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Kate Winslet’s ‘Mare of Easttown’ Is the Year’s First Great Crime Drama

Mare of Easttown is one of those shows that makes it hard to fall asleep after watching. It may not seem that way after its scene-setting, though still engrossing, premiere on HBO Sunday night, but the mystery-thriller speeds through a winding maze of twists, startling you after each hairpin plot turn.

Marketing materials tease the Kate Winslet-starring drama using a line of dialogue that compares solving one of the show’s crimes to finding “a needle in a thousand haystacks.” As the episodes unfold, in each of those haystacks is another disturbing grenade of information, just waiting to detonate.

You’d be excused for assuming Mare of Easttown, based on a first-episode impression, is the kind of crime drama you’ve seen before. “It’s like True Detective! Or Broadchurch! Or Top of the Lake!” you could rightfully recommend to a friend. That’s not meant as a deterrent; you’ve probably loved and devoured those shows.

Like those series, there’s meticulous crafting of a place and its people, transporting you to a fictionalized town in the Delaware County suburb of Philadelphia, both affectionately and self-deprecatingly referred to as “Delco” by locals. There’s an inescapable dourness, the chill of its winter setting manifesting in the pile-up of tragedy and pain experienced by the characters. And, like far too many HBO dramas before it, graphic acts of violence against women are central to the plot—at this point an exasperating, played-out device.

But what starts as the familiar slow burn of those other shows—a close-knit community is rocked by a murder that a hardened local detective must investigate—quickly catches fire, becoming a powerful portrait of grief, trauma, and the devastating secrets buried in this claustrophobic town’s tangled web of relationships.

Critics were provided five of seven episodes to review. The panic attack I had watching the events of episode four and the way that, after five, I’m bereft at having to last one more minute without seeing the other two… Let’s just say that despite all the faults of the series, it’s one that knows how to hook you and then reel you in fast, like you’re being dragged through choppy waters by a speedboat.

Winslet, returning to television for the first time since her Emmy-winning turn in Mildred Pierce a decade ago, plays Mare, a local legend (she made an important shot in an important high school basketball game 25 years ago) who is now a veteran detective in the same town, investigating, as she describes it, all the “burglaries, overdoses, and the really bad crap that happens around here.”

Her born-and-bred ties to the community make her the first call for everyone, regardless of how beneath her pay grade the “emergency”—a neighbor wakes her up with a panicked phone call about a “peeper” she swears was spotted in the backyard. That she knows everyone and everyone knows her is both an asset and a roadblock to her job; an out-of-town detective (Evan Peters’ Colin Zabel) who joins her for a case can’t help but smirk each time it’s revealed that a suspect or witness is her cousin, childhood friend, or both.

But her local fame is hardly a bulletproof vest. The teenage daughter of one of her former high school teammates disappeared over a year ago, and her failure to provide any answers has started to draw the ire not just of the girl’s mother, but the entire town. When another tragedy befalls a local girl, they’re skeptical she can handle the case.

That the investigation consumes her only hastens her unraveling. She lives at home with her mother, Helen (Jean Smart, serving up a masterclass in how to steal a scene), her teenage daughter, and her 4-year-old grandson, who she’s raising following the death by suicide of her son (and the boy’s father). Her ex-husband lives in the house behind hers with his new fiancée, her grandson’s ex-addict mother is pursuing custody, and her friendships are tested as the case starts to involve those she’s known all her life.

You witness the weight of all this threatening to crush Mare, with Winslet showing how every step she takes requires effort: lifting her injured foot to move under the force of all her grief, fighting the attacks of her personal demons as they work against her ability to investigate the case. It’s a staggering, lived-in performance, the kind that Winslet hinted at in the recent period drama Ammonite, but brought down to earth in a way that escapes the blue-collar drag movie stars can sometimes wear in roles like this.

There will be much dissection to come of Winslet’s labor-intensive, at time distractingly mannered Delco accent, in which “water” becomes “wudder” and long “o” sounds terrorize the most basic of nouns: “phone” is “fewn” and “home” is “hewm.”

It’s a staggering, lived-in performance, the kind that Winslet hinted at in the recent period drama Ammonite, but brought down to earth in a way that escapes the blue-collar drag movie stars can sometimes wear in roles like this.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Delco and around its defectors, and, honestly, every time you hear a strong version of the accent it sounds so outrageous that it’s hard to decipher if Winslet’s swing-for-the-fences attempt nails it or not.

She’s surrounded by a cast that does a more natural, subtle version of it, like Smart and Julianne Nicholson, who plays Mare’s best friend. But the accent is just one layer of the rare, multidimensional look at a community with generational roots that all intertwine. Supporting characters are rarely undeveloped plot devices or stereotypes. It’s not Tinseltown leering at a working-class area, but rather a clear-eyed look into people’s daily struggles and the ways those can avalanche into the kind of trauma you can’t outrun.

The relentless reminders of the violence that has been inflicted on the young girls at the center of the show’s mystery causes the show to skirt dangerously close to tragedy porn. Admirable space is given to the pain that not just Mare, but even tertiary characters, are enduring, which can sometimes settle like a fog of misery over the already dark and dreary Easttown.

But unlike the recent I Know This Much Is True, whose onslaught of misfortune could be too much of an emotional slog to endure, Mare of Easttown finds the lightness and levity in survival and pushing through, because what else is there to do?

Peters’ Detective Zabel forms an amusing buddy-cop comic relationship with Mare, while Smart’s litany of deadpan, sardonic line deliveries—tossed off at Mare in a mother-daughter repartee familiar to anyone who has spent much time in close quarters with a parent—will surely be clipped and .GIF’d until the actress’ entire screen time has been meme’d.

Having not seen the final episodes—give them to me now, HBO!—I can’t speak to how the various threads are tied up, or whether it careens off the rails after an intriguing start, a la The Undoing. But even not taking into account how sleepy 2021 has been for TV dramas, this is one that whisks you away, even if it hits a few bumps in the road.

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Colbert and Kimmel Expose Matt Gaetz Sex Party Madness

There’s just something about scandalous congressional sex parties that was irresistible for the late-night hosts Wednesday night.

“This morning, we learned that [Matt] Gaetz attended champagne-fueled sex parties with GOP officials,” Stephen Colbert began on The Late Show, citing a Daily Beast report. “I’ve never been so torn in my life. I want there to be a sex tape, but I don’t want to dig out my own eyes with a grapefruit spoon.”

“These weren’t your workaday champagne intercourse shindigs,” the host continued. “They were house parties in a gated community in suburban Orlando. Is Matt Gaetz a congressman or a high school senior?” Noting that women said they were told to put away their cell phones because the men didn’t want the night’s activities to be documented, Colbert joked that the women replied, “It’s sex with Matt Gaetz, neither do we.”

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Jimmy Tatro Transforms from Fratty to Daddy on ABC’s ‘Home Economics’

Jimmy Tatro knows that playing a dad is not exactly an expected move for him. At 29 years old, he’s primarily known for his frat-tastic YouTube channel, and for playing “bro”-y characters in movies and on TV. (See: Grown Ups 2, 22 Jump Street, and American Vandal for a few salient examples.) But on Home Economics, ABC’s delightful new family comedy, the YouTuber and American Vandal actor has taken to fatherhood like a fish to water—or, perhaps more aptly, like a middle-aged man to New Balance sneakers.

“A lot of people, my age would be worried about getting aged up by playing a dad,” Tatro told The Daily Beast during a recent interview. “But I think I’ve been playing high school and college guys so much that the idea of it just really appealed to me. And I just thought it was a good, different kind of a look.”

Home Economics follows three siblings, each living in a different income bracket. Topher Grace plays older brother Tom Hayworth, whom the show frames as middle class. (Although for the record, given the size and location of his home in San Francisco’s Bay Area, Tom’s family as at least upper-middle class, if not upper class.) Caitlin McGee plays the oldest sibling, Sarah—who is struggling financially, especially due to a recent job loss. Tatro’s character, baby brother Connor, owns a private-equity firm, placing him firmly in “the one percent.”

On paper, Connor reads as nothing short of obnoxious. He made his money by investing in a weirdo friend’s harebrained invention. He constantly brags about having bought Matt Damon’s mansion, and asks his daughter’s nanny to put whipped cream smiley faces on his pancakes in the morning. Like so many of Tatro’s characters, he would be easy to hate if the actor playing him didn’t lean so compellingly into his good-heartedness.

It’s a trick Tatro has pulled off before, including on American Vandal, which plays his burnout character Dylan Maxwell for laughs in early episodes before slowly peeling back the layers until viewers simply feel bad for him.

“These characters are someone that you’d see or read on paper and think, you know, ‘idiot,’ ‘dick,’ ‘douchebag,’” Tatro said. “And then I like to just try to prove your instant judgment wrong.”

That strategy comes straight from Tatro’s personal experience. From the way he looks and the way his voice sounds, the actor said, people tend to assume that he’s a dick himself.

“When I talk on the phone sometimes… and I’m like, ‘Hello,’ people are like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on? What did I do?!’” Tatro said. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, no, this is just how I talk… This is just my voice.’”

Tatro grew up in Venice, where he began making and posting skating videos. Eventually, these turned into humor videos, and then into full-blown comedy sketches. In college, as Tatro was looking for a way to make money, he found out the paydays some YouTubers took home and decided to go full steam ahead.

Tatro is the first to admit that his “bro” image is partially his own doing. Between playing a fratty character on his YouTube channel, LifeAccordingToJimmy, and creating the parody series The Real Bros of Simi Valley, Tatro has played up his rowdier qualities many times. He’s even occasionally faced awkward run-ins with fans who conflate his persona with his actual personality. (“They’re trying to give me a shot, and I’m like, ‘I’m just trying to have lunch.’”)

“I think just like everyone, I’m kind of constantly trying to prove that I’m more than what you see,” Tatro said.

Home Economics makes full use of that reputation, initially framing Connor as a two-dimensional blockhead before revealing that he and his wife, Emily, are separating—leaving Connor a single parent to their daughter, Gretchen, as he and his ex figure out what he calls “the custody sitch.”

As Connor frets over his daughter and, at times, overcompensates to make up for their stressful family situation, it’s hard to feel anything but love for him. (Although that said, some of his meltdowns are pretty funny—especially one that happens to take place during children’s karaoke.) Above all, Tatro’s keen understanding of not only his character, but the assumptions we’ll make about him, shine through as he subverts them one by one.

I think just like everyone, I’m kind of constantly trying to prove that I’m more than what you see.

Speaking of Gretchen, working with child actors has actually become one of Tatro’s favorite aspects of working on Home Economics. Shiloh Bearman, who plays Gretchen, has already made a particularly strong impression on her screen dad. He recalls one occasion in which she asked, “Have you seen the original Wizard of Oz? The one with Judy Garland?”

“I didn’t even know her name was Judy Garland,” Tatro said—before adding, after a long pause that felt almost perfectly timed, “… Don’t put that in there.”

And although Topher Grace plays the show’s designated wet blanket, Tatro has apparently already begun to act like a bit of a “dad” on set.

“It’s really funny just having kids around,” he said. “I like to say, when there’s one, there’s one—but if there’s two, there’s six. And if there’s three, there’s, like, nine. They multiply exponentially.”

Tatro swears he has not yet become the guy who begs kids to use their “inside voices”—but that’s largely because he’s already the guy scolding them for eating Fruit Gushers for breakfast. “I’ll see them eating Gushers or, like, candy at 10:00 AM, and I’m like, ‘What are you doing?!’” he said.

At this rate, an “inside voices” plea can’t be that far away.

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Inside the Battle to Run CBS News After Susan Zirinsky

ABC News’ Wednesday announcement of the historic appointment of former top CBS News executive Kim Godwin as the first Black woman, indeed the first woman, to lead the Disney-owned network’s news division was the initial step in an unprecedented game of broadcast news musical chairs involving ABC and CBS.

Godwin’s departure from CBS, where she was the influential executive vice president in charge of global news gathering operations, comes a day after her immediate superior, CBS News President Susan Zirinsky, acknowledged her plans to step down after two troubled and tumultuous years capping a four-decade career as a star producer of such iconic CBS programs as 48 Hours.

Ironically, while Godwin was—on paper, at least—Zirinsky’s principal deputy, she was also one of her most powerful detractors at the network, according to multiple CBS insiders who spoke with The Daily Beast on condition of not being identified.

According to people with knowledge of the situation, executives gossiped that Godwin had actively kept tabs on some of Zirinsky’s missteps, while Zirinsky privately complained about Godwin, souring relations between the two prominent CBS executives.

A rep for ABC News did not respond to a request for comment on the Godwin-Zirinsky contretemps. A CBS News spokesperson said “we are not commenting on malicious gossip.”

Godwin will have a major challenge on her hands in trying to reset the frayed culture at ABC News while managing big personalities such as The View’s Meghan McCain and Whoopi Goldberg. On the plus side, she is taking the job during a boom time for ABC News, when its two most important and revenue-rich programs, Good Morning America and the flagship World News Tonight are both beating their rivals in the ratings.

Godwin’s appointment—which has been rumored for weeks and required ViacomCBS to let her out of a long-term contract—throws into high-relief the uncertain future of CBS News and who will be picked as Zirinsky’s successor. During her usual 9 a.m. conference call with CBS News staffers Wednesday, Zirinsky acknowledged her impending departure–first reported Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal–and advised colleagues that network entertainment president and chief executive George Cheeks would announce his choice “very soon.”

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Geraldo Loses His Mind at Dan Bongino: ‘You Son of a Bitch! You Punk!’


Fox News

The moment Sean Hannity brought Geraldo Rivera and Dan Bongino onto his Fox News show Wednesday night, everyone watching knew that the sole purpose of the segment was to watch the two Fox pundits fight.

And they did not disappoint, as the bickering pair immediately engaged in a reality-TV-esque food fight that culminated in Rivera calling Bongino a “son of a bitch.�

Rivera, who has apparently made it his mission to create instantly viral moments, began Wednesday night’s fireworks by dredging up his last fight with Bongino, complaining that his Fox colleague had misrepresented his experience with police officers over the years.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Son of Former Navy SEAL Linked to the Proud Boys Caught Entering Capitol on Jan. 6

A former Navy SEAL who was pictured leading a Jan. 6 march on the Capitol alongside now-indicted Proud Boys told The Daily Beast that he and his son left the Capitol grounds before the building was breached. That’s not entirely true, The Daily Beast has learned.

Video footage shows his son picking up what appears to be a dropped police baton as scuffles with cops intensified outside the building. Later, he is seen with the baton inside the Capitol, minutes after the building was first breached.

And the ex-SEAL posted a video of himself on Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 with other Proud Boys, one of whom announced that “we just stormed the fucking Capitol.” The ex-SEAL, Shannon Rusch, responds with approval.

Rusch is a former member of SEAL Team 4 who marched on the Capitol, but does not appear to have entered it, The Daily Beast previously reported. His son Trevor McDonald, however, appears to have picked up a police baton outside the building and entered around 2:15 pm, when a first wave of Proud Boys was breaching the building. McDonald told The Daily Beast he had not entered the Capitol, and had in fact been on a Webex call during the attack.

But photo and video evidence from inside the building—first compiled by John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and the investigative group Deep State Dogs—show otherwise.

A veteran of SEAL Team 4, Rusch has parlayed his military career into a role as a motivational speaker and author. He bills himself as a “High Performance Mind Master Coach” on Instagram and charges up to $10,000 for speaking engagements, according to one online biography. On a podcast late last month, Rusch described himself as joining the SEALs after a troubled youth, which led him, as a young man, to break into a family member’s home with the intent of killing people inside. “I had an interaction with God at this point,” Rusch said on the podcast. “I heard an audible voice of God speak to me at that point and tell me, basically, if you do this, you won’t get to do what you were born to do. You won’t live the life you were born to live It was so loud I thought it was going to wake up the people I was there to kill […] That’s actually when I went to join the Navy, the SEAL team, because I knew that I didn’t want to go down this path.”

He said on the podcast that his SEAL career was cut short due to an other-than-honorable discharge after a flawed Navy background check incorrectly accused him of crimes. After a 17-year battle, he said, he was recently cleared and his discharge was changed to honorable.

More recently, Rusch also associated himself repeatedly with the far-right paramilitary group the Proud Boys, marching across a bridge alongside the group’s leadership in a tense August 2019 rally in Portland, Oregon. He has also appeared on the podcast of Joe Biggs, a Proud Boy leader.

In January, Rusch took McDonald, 21, to D.C. for a protest against the certification of Joe Biden’s election. On Jan. 4, Rusch tweeted a picture of himself and McDonald. “Headed to DC to stand with my son and millions of Americans in defiance of tyranny and to celebrate American freedom!” he said, tagging a number of conservative figures, including pillow salesman and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. In the picture, McDonald was wearing a red hoodie.

The following day, Rusch tweeted another picture of himself and McDonald, this time on the National Mall. McDonald was wearing a distinctive green plaid jacket.

“There is no one I’d rather be here with than my son for this historic event,” Rusch tweeted on Jan. 5. “The calm before the strom…. [sic]”

The following day, ahead of a scheduled pro-Trump demonstration, both men gathered near the Capitol with members of the Proud Boys. The duo was filmed by Eddie Block, a California-based Proud Boy who makes YouTube videos. In the clip, Rusch is holding a megaphone that he and Biggs would soon use as they marched on the Capitol.

McDonald is wearing both the red hoodie and the plaid jacket that he wore in his father’s public Twitter posts the two previous days. The distinctive outfit made him identifiable as the day’s protests dissolved into chaos.

Rusch did not return a request for comment on this story. He previously confirmed to The Daily Beast that he marched on the Capitol, stating that he was there to exercise his First Amendment rights, but said he had not entered the building.

The same could not be said of McDonald. Footage from a clash between demonstrators and police outside the Capitol before its breach shows McDonald picking up what appears to be a dropped police baton. He was later photographed on the Capitol steps holding the baton while another man scaled a wall in front of him.

Around 2:14 p.m., footage from inside the Capitol shows, he entered the building, still holding the baton. He was among the first rioters—many of them Proud Boys—to do so. Court filings allege the group first entered the building at 2:13 when a member broke a window with a riot shield and opened a door for Biggs.

One camera shows McDonald raise his baton, apparently in celebration, after entering through the doors. Shortly thereafter, he walked past a livestreamer and shouted “woo!” into the camera.

McDonald, who has not been charged with a crime, told The Daily Beast he did not enter the Capitol. He did not return further requests for comment after being presented with photographic and video evidence of himself in the Capitol.

“I don’t know what photo or videos your talking about but i have spoke with my father and that is not me in those images,” he said via email. “I was with my father when he was doing a speaking engagement via Webex to one hundred plus people (witness verified and time stamp verified), we left the Capitol grounds at 1:45 and did not return to the Capitol grounds because it was in lock down. (The breach of the Capitol happened around 2pm).”

The latter portion of the email was copied verbatim from an email Rusch previously sent The Daily Beast about his own actions at the Capitol. Neither men returned requests for evidence of the Webex.

After The Daily Beast’s publication of an article revealing Rusch’s attendance outside the Capitol, Rusch further confirmed on Instagram that he had been there, and added that “I STILL STAND WITH THE REAL PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP! Big things are happening behind the scenes folks.”

He pointed to a conspiracy theory about voter fraud in Arizona: one of several fringe claims on his social media. Elsewhere on his personal profiles, Rusch has recently shared posts claiming that children are being “eaten” in a “satanist” plot related to immigration.

For his part on Jan. 6, Rusch was filmed pushing on barricades with the Proud Boys, and entering a scaffolded area near the Capitol. He also filmed himself with Proud Boys who announced that they’d just stormed the building.

“The American people have stormed the Capitol. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people here,” Rusch says into his phone’s camera in a video reviewed by The Daily Beast. He is on the grass outside the Capitol, although the exact time of the video is unclear. He then adjusts the camera to include Proud Boys in the frame. Among them are Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean, both of whom are accused of coordinating the Proud Boys’ assault on the Capitol.

Biggs announces that “we just stormed the fucking Capitol. Took the motherfucking place […] January 6th will be a day that lives in infamy.”

Rusch responds “yes, yes, love it!”

Meanwhile, Biggs’ announcement that “we just stormed the fucking Capitol” appears to have caught the eye of law enforcement. It’s cited in court filings against Nordean, as evidence that he and others who marched alongside him were carrying out a pre-planned mission.

“The men involved in the planning understood that the plan included storming the Capitol grounds,” the filing reads. “This shared understanding of the plan is further reflected in co-Defendant Biggs’ real-time descriptions that ‘we’ve just taken the Capitol’ and ‘we just stormed the fucking Capitol.’”

Additional reporting by Adam Rawnsley