Weaponization of Government; Defamation; Trash TV - Transcripts

March 10, 2023

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This week: Asha and Renato discuss Jim Jordan’s committee and his “whistleblowers”; more Dominion lawsuit information; and trash TV. GOP WITNESSES: WHAT THEIR DISCLOSURES INDICATE ABOUT THE STATE OF THE REPUBLICAN INVESTIGATIONS DemocraticStaffReport https://democrats-judiciary.house.gov/uploadedfiles/2023-03-02_gop_witnesses_report.pdf Subscribe to our podcast: https://link.chtbl.com/its-complicated Follow Asha on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AshaRangappa_ Asha's Substack: https://asharangappa.substack.com/ Follow Renato on Twitter: https://twitter.com/renato_mariotti Follow Asha on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asha.rangappa/ Follow Renato on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/renato.mariotti/ Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


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So Asha, is Jim Jordan's Weaponization Committee a problem for the FBI? It's complicated. I'm Asha Ringaba. I teach national security law at Yale University.

I'm a former FBI special agent, and I'm a legal and national security analyst. And I'm Renata Mariotti.

I'm a former federal prosecutor, a practicing lawyer, and a legal analyst. And we're here to help you understand topics that can't be boiled down to a soundbite or a tweet.

Sue, where do we start? Well, one thing I'd let's start with, because I think it's really interesting and I think we're going to have different perspectives on it, is this Washington Post story about disagreements between the DOJ and the FBI. I mean, it's very, very rare that such disagreements are public. In other words, just so people understand, when you are conducting a criminal investigation, DOJ prosecutors kind of lead investigations, at least that's the DOJ perspective, that we lead investigations and direct FBI agents, and there's often disagreements between us. I had more disagreements at the DEA, but there's disagreements often with the FBI. But those would get resolved internally. You rarely see news articles about it. And this suggests to me that there's some pretty disgruntled people, probably the FBI,

who were talking to reporters about it. Yes. And I think what was unusual is that the disagreements between the DOJ and FBI were kind of flipped. In other words, normally it seems like the FBI wants to be more aggressive and it's DOJ that's putting on the brakes. And what the reporting suggested was that at least some officials in the FBI and agents were pushing back against taking aggressive steps against Donald Trump, specifically in terms of investigating him, even for the Mar-a-Lago documents, not even January 6th, the Mar-a-Lago documents, which are kind of straightforward and for which there is ample precedent on how people in similar situations have been treated. And it gets to, I think, a larger issue related to January 6th, which I wrote about in a piece for Just Security, about some concerning things that have emerged in terms of the reluctance to investigate Trump for January 6th. And a lot of tips that were ignored and then even in the aftermath, certain types of slow walking and resistance, which by the way was echoed by a report issued internally by the Office of Inspector General on the FBI's response to January 6th. So all of this is painting a picture of at least some subset of the FBI either having either sympathizing or having support for Trump and or January 6th, or at the very least being afraid of pursuing investigations because of possible retaliation against them. And we can talk about how that connects to Jim Jordan's subcommittee in a second. But I'll pause right there.

Yeah, I do think there's a connection, but this is sort of, I think there's an interesting connection between these two and we can talk more about that. But I think just as a starting point, I did find one thing I found very disturbing about that article was the fact that folks at the FBI, FBI agents and people who are supervisors there were focused on and concerned about public blowback from Trump and his allies against them. And it really suggested to me that the sort of campaign, disinformation campaign against Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, thank you, worked and it really got the FBI to pull its punches against Trump. It's very concerning to me because, look, I was a federal prosecutor for a long time. Now I'm on the other side. The FBI is usually not pulling punches. And like you suggested, usually, when I was a federal prosecutor, I was the one trying to explain to agents like, no, we can't do this, we can't do that. Actually it's a lot harder to make our case than you think. And no, it's not, we can't just wrap it up now and there's a lot more to do. Usually I was like the whatever, the one who was providing caution, that was usually like you suggested earlier, Asha, the role of the prosecutor there. I'm not used to the FBI being the one too concerned and worried about going in. And I don't think it's ever appropriate for prosecutors to consider criticism, to consider, and by the way, I should say I say prosecutors, the FBI as well, law enforcement should not be concerned about, well, how are we going to look in the media?

I mean, frankly, that was the Comey problem that got the FBI in a lot of trouble in the first place. But that's really problematic because it means if you're rich, if you're powerful, if you have a lot of influence, you can get away with things that other people can't.

I mean, it's just really, it's almost corrupt.

McCabe. Yeah. And it does seem like the concerns that were expressed and resistance that was expressed by these agents and senior officials impacted how that investigation proceeded. So prosecutors wanted to execute a search warrant initially. And as a result of this resistance to doing that, they sort of settled on this interim measure of issuing a subpoena for the documents to be turned over. Which kind of goes to how the Department of Justice went above and beyond to try to accommodate and be as non-intrusive as possible for Trump. It also suggests that had Trump just turned over everything at that time, this would all be over right now. And what was amazing, the second amazing thing was after that subpoena was executed, I guess, after, you know, after they got whatever documents initially back, there were some agents that were like, okay, case closed. We believe him. We think that he gave, and this is someone who has lied over 30,000 times in four years. I mean, in the FBI, we call that a clue that maybe, you know, you don't want to take everything at face value. I mean, these are people who are trained in detecting deception and they were willing to just accept assurances that that was all he had and wanted to close the case, which was astonishing to me.

Yeah, I have to say, it's just so incongruent with the way that they usually operate. And I'll say this, you know, when you're on the other side of it, it can be very frustrating. You have a client who you think is innocent or you represent a witness you think is telling the truth and they're so convinced that she's lying and it's like, come on, you know. And here, every reason to be concerned, suspicious about this and the FBI wants to pull their punches. You know, I will say a lot of when I tweeted about this, a lot of the comments from my followers were like, hey, Christopher Ray is ruining the FBI and all the FBI agents are in the pocket of Trump. I think those are overstated. I'm curious what your thoughts are because you're an FBI alum and a lot closer to it to me. I do think that there are some agents and, you know, of course, we had certain agents that may have been leaking the Rudy Giuliani before the 2016 election, for example. I do think that there is definitely agents are mostly Republican and those have been. And so I do think there's some element of that, but I think it's a little overstated.

Yeah, I don't think Christopher Ray is in the pocket of Trump. I think Christopher Ray may be kind of reacting to a more acute degree to the same things that Comey was. Remember the whole Trump-landia leakers and this idea that there was going to be a mutiny if he didn't reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton. There is definitely some, you know, some subset that are full on, you know, Trump-landia. And I think that Christopher Ray has been overly, I don't know, hesitant, cautious. He has not been aggressive after January 6th, I think partly because he's afraid of part of the workforce that he thinks are going to, like, I don't know what he thinks they're going to do, which, you know, connects to some of the stuff that's happening with Jim Jordan's committee, but, you know, let's remember that after January 6th, Christopher Ray didn't even show up for the press conference about it two days later or whatever it was, two or three days later. I mean, I remember at the time being very shocked about that because, you know, if it were a major foreign terrorist attack, or frankly, if it had been a domestic terrorist attack that was not, you know, a bunch of white people wearing MAGA hats, I believe that he would have been there making a very strong and forceful statement. So it's, we see this sort of definitely, I think, a form of catering to this political subset both in the public and I think in the workforce. I would probably not go so far as to say that he's, you know, in Trump's pocket in the same way that some of it like, that Bill Barr or, you know, Ken Cash would tell or something,

Grinnell or, you know, all these other people where you know, all these other people working, I think that's right. I mean, I guess that I think it's really overstated. I think people leap to conclusions and I can understand that people are frustrated, but yeah, I actually think the way you're describing it is sort of the way that a lot of people have talked about Garland, right? There's been a lot of people saying, look, Car()); is concerned about politicization. So he just wants to stay away from anything that relates to politics. And I think you could argue the same is true of Ray. You mentioned Jim Jordan's committee, obviously we want to talk about that, I want to ask you about that. And I think what's interesting and ironic, and that's the reason that I think it was good to start with the Washington Post piece, is while the underlying reporting suggests that if anything, the FBI is pulling punches to help Trump, the disinformation campaign coming out of Fox News and Jim Jordan, who I just kind of regard him and some of those folks as essentially an arm of Fox News or in league with them. There's this disinformation campaign to suggest that the FBI is actually trying to frame Trump

or trying to go work against MAGA or whatever. Yes, right. And so this gets to the weaponization, the select subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government, which is a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee headed by Jim Jordan. And he has for months been intimating that he just has a league of whistleblowers waiting in the wings to come and just blow the lid off of rampant FBI abuse. And he's likened his committee to the Church Committee, which was a storied congressional committee from 1975, headed by Frank Church. There was also, it was a senator and then there was also a House committee called the Pike Committee that investigated intelligence abuses by the FBI, CIA, NSA, and led to many of the major reforms that we have in place now, as well as the oversight committees for the House and Senate intelligence committees. So it turns out, so to the extent that we were talking about this subset, this sort of extreme MAGA subset that maybe in the FBI, they are manifesting for sure in these so called whistleblowers who have, you know, been fired or suspended, basically for refusing to do their jobs. It seems to me as far as I can tell for when it comes to investigating January 6. And so far, Jordan has not produced these witnesses publicly, but at least three of them have been interviewed by Democrats on the committee. And the Democrats released a 316 page report outlining what their preliminary findings are on these witnesses, which is that they, A, don't meet the definition of whistleblower, which is a legal definition where you have to expose actual misconduct or violations of law, and then you get certain protections under the law. But that often they don't even have firsthand knowledge of the things that they're alleging. They traffic and conspiracy theories, including COVID conspiracy theories.

And one of them was even giving interviews to Russian state propaganda outlets while he was an FBI employee to Russia Today and Sputnik. So the whole thing is sketchy and PS, they're all funded by one cash Patel, who not only gave them cash money, but also is paying for their lawyers and even helped one of them find employment at a conservative. I wouldn't call it a think tank, but some sort of conservative organization that's run by Mark Meadows. So the whole thing is really, really sketchy.

Yeah. So just speaking, I mean, as somebody who I've represented, whistleblowers, you know, that is what a whistleblower is, is somebody like you said, you know, knows about a violation of law or policy or something along those lines. And usually very bravely brings that to the attention of authorities and gets protections as a result, because that person has to be concerned about retaliation. At least that's how it isn't often in the government context. Sometimes, of course, are whistleblowers in other contexts, like in private companies, where they'll go forward to the SEC will hear about whistleblower awards and things like that. That's a little different. But in this context, it's all about, you know, is the government breaking the law? Is the government violating its own policies? Like you said, I mean, that's not what we are seeing here. I really view these folks a lot like I view the weaponization committee as sort of a way of serving up, you know, clips for Fox News to try to lend some meat in the bones to conspiracy theories. And from what little I've watched at the weaponization committee, I watched a couple different times. It just seemed like kind of a panoply of conspiracy theories, Fox News conspiracy theories.

And you know, one of the, you know, something about living in that world and being part of that ecosystem is that if you have even like a little shred of something that you can hang your head on, it sounds like there's some weight to it. Like, well, I heard there's an FBI agent saying there's a lot of problems there at the FBI or, you know, well, then Congress they're investigating this and it lends a weight to what otherwise would be, I mean, they still are conspiracy theories, but nonetheless, I think it can give supporters some confidence or feeling that there's something more to


Yeah, I call it information laundering. Information laundering.

Wow. Yes. So you take the conspiracy theory and then you essentially launder it through some sort of legitimate process or you allow it to be aired through something that has credibility. And then that sort of lends it the legitimacy and that's exactly what you're talking about. We've seen it before in the lead up to the first impeachment, there was a lot of information laundering happen happening by the likes of Ron Johnson that was, you know, trying to bring into the record these, you know, whatever Burisma, Hunter Biden, you know, all that stuff that Trump was trying to get Zelensky to investigate Biden for. They were trying to make that into a thing. It reminds me of Mean Girls, you know, like stop trying to make fetch happen. They were trying to make fetch happen. And I think that that is what Jim Jordan is trying to do, I think to your point, what one of the problems is, is that these conspiracy theories have like, are coherent and make a lot of sense if you live in that bubble because you hear it all the time. And you have all these tidbits that are like mashed together and you're hearing it repetitively and to the people that you're in communication with, everybody knows all of these details that all fit together, you know, the pedophile ring that, you know, Trump is taking down or whatever, whatever you want to call it. But once it gets exposed into real life, they fall apart. And I think we've seen that happen with the Twitter files hearings where it turns out that the only people who are pressuring Twitter was the Trump administration.

And I think that this is what's going to happen with Jim Jordan's committee is just not going to hold up to the to the light of day.

Well, you know, one thing that I always say as a trial lawyer, if I had to say like my secret sauce is that usually the simple story beats the complex story. So you usually try to make my story, my themes, everything that I'm doing to a jury simpler than the other side, even if my story is more complicated, I find a way to make it simpler. And I think one thing that makes those conspiracy theories so appealing to people is they often are a very simple story like Trump's always being investigated for things all the time. And he's always running into legal trouble. And so it's like, well, it's they're all after him. Right. It's a very simple explanation. It's not like, well, actually, he seems to do all of these really bad things all the time, which obviously would kind of contradict their prior assumptions and their their biases. But also, it's easier for someone to believe like, oh, there must be after him. Right. And it sort of fits into, you know, kind of prejudices that people have. And I think, you know, what this does is it tries to lend enough credibility to that to make it plausible.

So very unfortunate, but something that I think is here to stay in the consequence of the last election. It's a consequence of losing the House.

Yeah. And I would encourage people to read the Democrat staff report on these witnesses, even just there's a five page executive summary at the beginning, because what what they're doing, I think, is essentially what what we need to do with disinformation, which is to pre-bunk narratives. So there's always first mover advantage to getting out information. And so what Democrats are doing is basically saying, like, here are some facts you need to know about these so-called whistleblowers. And the more that people are educated on that and the more that that gets circulated and highlighted, the less traction that Jim Jordan's, you know, whatever selective framing or whatever

he's going to present it is going to work. I'm Greg Olyar. Four years ago, I stopped writing novels to report on the crimes of Donald Trump and his associates. In 2018, I wrote a best selling book about it, Dirty Rubles. In 2019, I launched Prevail, a biweekly column about Trump and Putin, spies and mobsters, and so many traitors. Trump may be gone, but the damage he wrought will take years to fully understand. Join me and a revolving crew of contributors and guests as we try to make sense of it all.

This is Prevail. So Renato, last week we talked a little bit about the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News for defamation. And last night we had a new filing with some more bombshells, and I'm wondering what you

thought about that. Yeah. It was really remarkable. I have to say, Asha, it really helped me appreciate what the legal team accomplished on Dominion's behalf. It's really, speaking of somebody who litigates cases all the time, it's actually quite remarkable what they were able to accomplish. And I don't know if that's apparent to everyone. I'll just say that First Amendment lawsuits are very, very difficult to make, particularly when they're involving issues of public concern, because the standard is so high you have to prove that someone either knew what they were saying was false, or they had reckless disregard for the truth. And reading not just the transcripts, but also looking at the communications, there's no question that Dominion has evidence that can prove that. The fact that Dominion filed a motion for summary judgment, that may seem to you like, well, so? Well, actually, usually that's the defense that's filing the motion for summary judgment, saying, ah, there's not enough here. We don't want a trial. It's pretty rare for the plaintiff to do that, and it's really a sign of confidence here.

And I can see why they're confident, because you literally have Rupert Murdoch saying, I didn't believe this stuff. I thought it was false. And the defense is that Fox is left with, and really what I took away from it is, well, all of these hosts believed that, knew that what they were doing was false. But it wasn't the higher ops, or it wasn't the head of the company, so it's like some factory worker knew they were selling defective cars, but it never got up to the CEO, that sort of thing. And it's a very, very difficult defense for them. And I think it was quite remarkable.

Is that their defense?

Because it sounds like it was going all the way to the top. That is their defense. In fact, Rupert Murdoch, in his deposition, sort of was taking a line where he said, well, some of the hosts were promoting this, but not the network, in their view. Now, there's some very good evidence to the contrary. In fact, right, because the CEO was basically in on this and encouraging. Correct. And also, there was, for example, on the first, I think the first problematic segment they had was a Maria Bartiromo segment. And then there was some communications about, oh, boy, we need to dial that back. And then they just doubled down on it. In other words, there's some really good evidence on that. But nonetheless, that's sort of the line that Fox is taking because they don't have a lot to work with.

And I mean, one thing that really struck me, Asha, is why hasn't Fox settled? Yeah.

That's confusing to me, too, because it's just more bad stuff keeps coming out. Yeah. So that's something I've been doing some digging on and talking to people about it, basically, my sense of things. I mean, first of all, just so everyone understands, the damages here are immense. OK, we're talking well over a billion dollars in damages that the minions ask you for. And that can have a multiplier on top of it, like, and you could get double or triple that. OK, so very significant amount of damages here. But Fox, you know, so Fox already have an interest in settling. And by the way, an interest in settling before this filing. In other words, this would ordinarily be a very confident inflection point in a case where the defense would say, hey, before all of this stuff gets aired to the public, let's settle. The fact that they didn't really what it suggests to me as that they if they admit fault here and if they admit that they did something wrong, which is probably what it would take in order to get this thing settled, it would ruin their business plan and would ruin their business model for their customers.

They're very much put in a box. it would ruin their business plan. And I, I am assuming or I suspect that some settlement would involve them having to correct their statements on air to the audience that they are so worried about alienating, right? So they would have to go on air. I mean, you can tell me more about how what this would look like, but I'm assuming like, you know, 10 times a day and be like, you know, the claims that we made about Dominion voting systems was false and there was no election fraud. And, you know, the election was won by Joe Biden. I mean, they would be forced to say that.

Yeah, yeah. Yes, they would. And in fact, a good analog says if you look at what happened to Newsmax, so Newsmax not as well funded as Fox News, they folded fairly early on. And they did have statements that were read on the air and they were cutting people off. I mean, you can find the clips online on social media where it's actually kind of you kind of humorous where you have Michael and Dell and other types of people going on Newsmax and the hosts are like, whoa, whoa, whoa, we got to shut this down. Because actually in the first amendment, one of the things also that Fox tries to do is they're like, well, we weren't promoting this, these personalities that were on the air were promoting this. We were just, this was a public, an issue of public concern because important. Yeah, it was actually an important people were saying this, but you can get the first time you can get away with that and say, okay, well, we put Trump on and he said this. But if you know that somebody is going to be saying things that you know are false and you give them a platform and you don't push against that and you don't explain to the audience that that's false, you are liable for that. And there's a lot of case law on that. And so that doesn't really help Fox News at all. But I think that's another sort of distinction just so people understand the distinctions there.

But in terms of what happened here, it's remarkable because, and I think a couple of things really helped a million here that they gave them some advantages over other lawsuits in the defamation place space is that first of all, this happened, a lot of this was right during the pandemic. So a lot of conversations that might have otherwise been oral were actually written down because Murdoch was off in his estate in

Australia wherever he was. That's such a good point because I was wondering, why is there such an extensive paper trail here? This seems really dumb. Why are they like, you know, we're totally lying, but we're going to air it anyway. I mean, you have all these smoking gun emails, even to the extent of the legal standard is reckless disregard for the truth. And I think there's even a text or email from Tucker Carlson that says it would be incredibly reckless to say this on air. And it's sort of like, okay, so you're admitting. But anyway, that's a good point that they were doing this because they were effectively remote at that

time. Yeah. And I'm told that had a very significant impact. Interesting. Yeah, very significant impact. Another thing that had a big impact is Dominion was on top of this in real time and issuing preservation notices. And so really putting Fox in a spot where, you know, and so Fox, if you look at the communications, Fox was in this tough spot because Trump, if you remember, at the time was promoting Newsmax and whatever the other OANN and all of that. So they were, they didn't want to lose their audience. They felt like they were in this box there, but at the same time, you know, they're like, they're remote. They've got these preservation notices. And so you literally have in many ways, I mean, this may be, you know, the most, you know, the largest award we've had in first amendment history. And it's coming at a time, by the way, legally, when conservatives in the Supreme Court are saying, we need to dial back New York times versus the defamation.

They need to lower the standard. Because you can't make a defamation case. The argument has been the first amendment swung too far in that direction. You can never succeed as a plaintiff. So we need to dial it back. This may be the prime counter example. Like, nope, when people are real liars, yes, you can and get a lot of money

out of them. Yeah. And what Renato is referring to here is that for your ordinary person, the defamation standard is lower, that it has to be like knowingly saying, knowingly saying something that is false, and that it results in damage to your reputation or economic detriment. But for public figures, where you want to encourage like a free flow of ideas and debate, there is a higher standard where you have to demonstrate actual malice. And the idea is that you don't want someone with a lot of influence to be able to start suing people for defamation and, you know, chill the speech of people who might be criticizing them, would you say?

Which happens, which happens, which happens even like we saw Trump sues everyone under the sun, or they claim he claims that he's gonna sue everyone under the sun, even despite that standard. And so you could have a situation where, you know, everyone from social media personalities to radio stations are pulling their punches against Trump because he's gonna sue you. And so the purpose of it is, you know, is literally to do that. Actual malice is the standard I mentioned earlier. You have to prove that the person either knew what they were saying was false or had reckless disregard for the truth. And in many states, there's laws, anti-slap laws, which essentially also say that if you file a defamation suit, you have to pay the legal fees if it fails. You know, if the judge, it's a little bit more complicated than that, but, you know, the judge can essentially make it so, you know, the party bringing that even has to pay your legal fees. So it really is very friendly to the First Amendment. But this is the perfect storm where you not only have all this documentary evidence of people who knew they were lying and knew they were peddling in lies and promoting lies, but also a plaintiff that has significant damages. That's the other thing, Asha. It's often very, very difficult at a defamation case to prove, you know, damages, right? Like, let's say, you know, you were being defamed by Fox News, which you have probably been at some point or another.

You have been. But like, how do we prove the damage? Like maybe it improves your reputation. They put some expert on the stand is like, oh, for Asha, getting attacked by Fox News helps her. So in this case, Dominion's entire business plan, and it was a substantial company and substantial amount of investment, their business plan was to convince municipalities and states and others. Right. The whole business plan is we're this trustworthy system for running voting. We want to convince political bodies to, you know, pay for our product. And so obviously, destroying the trust in their product and making a political

a political hot potato destroys their entire business. Right. Though Fox is arguing that

they haven't suffered any damages. Yeah, of course. But I think Dominion has got a good argument there. I you know, there will be some cutback on damages that you know, there's a thing and courts don't like I like to sort of peel back very excessive awards. So in other words, if you get, you know, it may very well be that someone stole your invention and, you know, built a massive hundred billion dollar business out of it, but you're not going to get that full amount in a in a court case. And here, even though the damage to Dominion may be, you know, five billion dollars or one, you know, whatever, you know, I think they claim it's it's like think one point six. And let's say you might have it troubled or quadrupled or what it quintupled. You know, ultimately, that may get pared down some. But nonetheless, I mean, it's going to be a very

substantial amount of money. Yeah. Let the games begin. And I my favorite part, by the way, is the the text that was revealed last night where Tucker Carlson talks about how much he hates

Donald Trump. Yeah, that one. I love how didn't you have the time machine person with what's her face with with the Kraken lawyer like the woman who went back in the woman hurt source of the

Dominion thing with someone who, oh yeah, who was like, somebody who was like reborn or

something else, like we're in total. Yeah, it's something else. Like we yeah. It was like, Kang the Conqueror or Marty McFly or whoever. Sometimes.

Yeah, oh yeah. Yeah, she'd come back in time. Yeah, no, it was really wacky. But I will be interested to see if Trump turns on, I think he's been tweeting or true thing about Fox in the last week or so, some critical things about Rupert Murdoch, and I'll be interested to see because, you know, one thing that triggers Trump is people saying bad things about him. So I'm curious, I'm sure Tucker Carlson has been on the phone with Trump, groveling, and claiming that, you know, they got it wrong or they mis-attributed or whatever, because otherwise, I will expect to see statements from Trump slamming Tucker and Fox News generally. Wow. Which will be really fun to watch.

I will definitely popcorn for that. Wow. Which will watch. I will definitely popcorn for that. There you go.

Get some popcorn. So speaking of popcorn, Renato, I'm curious, I'm wondering if we can have a little confessional here on what kind of trashy TV shows we watch. And I'm asking because I have recently been alerted to 90 Day Fiancé.

Oh, oh, we try. So we watched a few episodes of that and we thought it was really good, but then we didn't follow through. Like, I don't know what happened with that, but that's a really good one that's supposedly

very good. Yeah. Yeah. I started with season one, it's sketchy and gives me sex trafficking vibes. So I'm not sure if I want to keep watching it, but basically I feel like my gateway drug was bachelor, which I hadn't watched in like, you know, 20 years and then last spring I started watching, um, the current season and somehow got sucked in and then that led me to bachelor in paradise. And then that led me to love is blind.

Okay. Okay.

Where big love is fine. Love is blind Brazil. Love is brought in Japan.

And so I am now just fully in the shame spiral of trashy dating. Okay. So we do a lot of the trashy dating shows because my, especially like my wife's like, look, let's just watch something fun and like not complicated and not, you know, scary or intense. Yeah. Or depressing. Yeah, exactly. Like, let's just watch something lighthearted. And so we watched this stuff. We just saw, you know, I know we're late in this love is blind reunion or whatever they call it. Very interesting, right? I did. I didn't see some of the, I'm not going to give anything away but I didn't see some of the twists coming at the end of that.

I'm sure you've watched that also was a twist, that was a twist. Right.

And then see that comment.

I was scary or yeah, or depressing. Yeah. Oh yeah. That was a twist. I was shocked. I like actually was like, Oh my God.

And then I had to like person to get online and that's to the other one like get online to the other one. Okay. So that was like a twist there. Yeah. 100%. Um, bachelor, you know, I always thought one thing could talk about creepy vibes. So one thing I was, I remember watching the first season of the bachelor 20 something years ago and thinking it was so weird because the guy is like hooking up with like multiple women at the same time on a show. And then there's this like Rose romance and love BS. That's sort of like put on top of it because like is he really having romantic love with all these people that he's like hooking up with at the same time. Like it's just kind of weird, right? Like, isn't it weird back? Oh, I love you knowing that like, he's saying the same thing to like all these other people

that you interact with all the time. Like it's super weird, right? Yeah. underneath.

It's so weird. It is, it's like sister wives or something. Yes, have you watched that I wouldn't be able to do it. I'm not, I would not be able to do it. I've not been. by the way, Sister Wives, have you watched that? I haven't watched it either.

I'm just assuming that it's about people sharing. Yes, it's like a plural marriage thing, but I think it's Sister Wife now because all the rest of them ditch the guy, is what I read. So there you go, but yeah, no, but I definitely, yeah, I definitely love that stuff. We love all sorts of goofy stuff though. I mean, one of our favorite Netflix shows was, is it Cake? Have you seen that? No. Oh my God. That's like maybe the best show ever. Is it Cake? Basically what it is, is they have these chef, pastry people who make cakes that look like real objects. So they'll have like, let's say I'm talking in a microphone now, they'll have a bunch of microphones lined up.

One of them's, but one of them's a cake.

No. Oh my.

So a dessert imposter. Yes, one of them's a cake. And like you're five feet away, 10 feet away. Can you guess is it Cake? Which one is Cake? And like that's part of the thing. And then like they're creating, the chefs create different things. They'll be like, okay, you've got to create different things and then they'll have somebody have to guess which one is Cake. It's super fun. it's way better than it sounds.

It's way better than it sounds. Okay, I might have to watch that. We've watched Cake Wars here. My kids and I, we watch a lot of the cooking shows.

So Cake Wars, we very into Kids Baking Show. Okay.

All right, that's, no. Kids Baking Show, it's fun to watch. And then I feel guilty because I find some of the kids annoying and then I'm like, what are these kids? But anyway, but they're actually very talented. So it's kind of cool to watch them make all these things. We've watched, oh my gosh, what are some of the other ones? The one with the Alton Brown cutthroat kitchen. Oh, wow. Food truck wars.

See, I've done- Oh, wow. I mean, there's all kinds- I've done lots of those. We've done, have you done, there's one where it's like, it was like where you had to choose between a wedding and a mortgage or wedding and a, like you had to choose you get a free, they bought you either a free home or the wedding of your dreams. You had to make a choice.

Have you seen that once? There's all kind of-

I've vaguely remember this. Yeah, it was like they did this whole thing, they have like a realtor and then like a wedding planner and they're like, we can throw you the wedding depreciation. And we're like, we'll do this. You can have this over the top $50,000 wedding or you can get the down payment in a house. And my wife is a realtor, so she's always like, she always wanted the person, she's the house. And I'm like, I get it. But it's funny, because I try to figure out how foolish are these people to blow their life savings? Or, well, it's not like this windfall on one day. And half of the people do. That's always an interesting. That was one of our ones for a while. Another one is the married at first sight.

We've watched a bazillion seasons of that, where these supposed experts decide who you're going to marry in a second arranged marriage. You show up at the wedding day, and you walk down the aisle, and you've never met the guy before. But you have to take the vows. And you're like, OK, this guy's really ugly, but I got to roll with it.

Oh, that's super interesting. And I'm like, I got to roll with it.

Do they get paid? No. They have to sign, I think, prenups before the show. But no, you have to get a divorce after, too. No, it's actually. Oh, my god. The argument is, look, if your picker's bad, then you are going to have this panel of experts that are going to make a decision. They've got a therapist. They've got a sex therapist. They've got a minister. They all kind of get together, and they are like, oh, we really like whatever. Jane and John, these two would be a good match, and this and that.

And you literally just walk down the aisle, you meet this guy, and you have to marry him. And then it's usually, some of them are clearly not into each other, but they have to live together and go through the motions to be on this honeymoon. Some of them, I mean, occasionally they do work out, and they stay married, and they have a bunch of kids and stuff. But I think it's got a better success rate than the Bachelor, because usually the people are-

My god. The Bachelor record is hard.

Well, right, because they're all super hot, hot, successful people, whatever it is, who just want to be on TV. Whereas these people are kind of, they look kind of more normal, like normal people. And they're like, because you have to get married. So it's like, you have to really be into it. It's usually people who have had bad luck with getting married for some reason. You're usually, there's some problem with it.

I don't know. I don't know. They should do 90 day fiance, apparently.

You can just go online and find someone and ship them over. So do these people speak English, the 90 day fiance people? Do you get somebody who can- Sometimes. Sometimes not.

You use Google Translate to talk to your wife or something. Sometimes. Wife or something. The first season, this dude brought this Brazilian woman over, which was incredibly beautiful, but looked really young and did not speak a lot of English. And I'm just like, I don't know how I feel about this.

This just feels weird to me. Seems exploitive.

It's like the people who- So maybe, I mean, I might need to watch more seasons, because if it's all dudes bringing women in from other countries, like that's not, I don't know. That's just gonna make me uncomfortable.

I need to watch that. Yeah, it just seems super exploitive, right? It's just like, hey, these people have very little in terms of material goods, like being taken advantage of

by men in the United States who want to prey on young women. Now, look, I did, after watching season one, look all these people up. I mean, because the first season was like 10 years ago or something.

They're all still married. They have kids. Well, yeah, because one of the- They look happy on Instagram. Because your alternative is to go back to whatever, right? Angola and live in poverty, so, or whatever. It's like, okay, we're gonna- Right, right, right, right. Russia. Right, it's like, yeah, exactly. It's like, okay, you could live in this village without running water. Or you can be married to this really old ugly dude and you get to play Nintendo Switch or whatever. So I just, I don't know. I mean, I don't know.

Like marriage is not, in my view, in and of itself, like you win a prize, right? Like you want a marriage that's happy and fulfilling and all of that stuff.

Because you're alternative or whatever. It's like, okay, you know. Right, right, right, right. Russia. Right, it's like, yeah, exactly. I agree. M-S-W.


S-W. Hi, I'm Harry Lichtman, host of Talking Feds, a round table that brings together prominent figures from government law and journalism for a dynamic discussion of the most important topics of the day. Each Monday, I'm joined by a slate of Feds favorites and new voices to break down the headlines and give the insiders view of what's going on in Washington and beyond. Plus, sidebar is explaining important legal concepts read by your favorite celebrities. Find Talking Feds wherever you get your podcasts.