May 7, 2014

Last night's GOP Senate primary in North Carolina was billed as a surrogate battle in the Republican Civil War between the establishment and grassroots. But it ended up being more of a surrender than a battle. And since establishment candidate Thom Tillis easily trounced his two grassroots conservative opponents, it would be easy to declare today that the tea party is toast.

The truth is probably more complicated than that. In fact, if the tea party didn't show up, or put up much of a fight, it might be because they already won the war. I'll let The Atlantic's Molly Ball explain:

[I]f Tillis represented the Republican establishment — something he denies, of course; it is not a label anyone embraces — he also represents the party's new, post-Tea Party mainstream. He was endorsed by National Right to Life and the National Rifle Association. As House speaker during a time when Republicans took over North Carolina's government for the first time since 1896, he oversaw a dramatic slate of rightward policies, from tax cuts to voter ID, that he terms a "conservative revolution."

It was hard for opponents to paint Tillis as a liberal when actual liberals were picketing his initiatives on the steps of the statehouse in Raleigh on a regular basis. If this race is any indication, the "Republican civil war" storyline so beloved of pundits in recent years may have to be retired... [The Atlantic]

The theory goes like this: In the beginning, the GOP establishment had grown old and fat and corrupt, and the tea party bench was full of young and talented and pure candidates. And so, when quality candidates like former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio and former Rep. and Club for Growth head Pat Toomey challenged moderate GOP candidates like then-Gov. Charlie Crist (Fla.) and then-Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) — both of whom later became Democrats — it was like picking low-hanging fruit.

But there are only so many Rubios and Toomeys (and only so many Crists and Specters). So it gets increasingly harder to replicate this success. The well of quality tea party candidates goes dry, and eventually, you're scraping the bottom. What's more, the early victories send a message to the old guard that they'd better clean up their act.

And so, the tea party message gets co-opted by the establishment — which, for tea party conservatives, ought to be cause for celebration; incumbents who want to survive either get religion, or get ousted.

If the tea party is having a bad year, it's only because they are a victim of their own success. Matt K. Lewis

10:29 a.m. ET

On Nov. 15, Georgia's voter registration database was hit with an unsuccessful hacking attempt. The weird part is Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp says investigation has traced the attack to an Internet Protocol (IP) address in the federal government.

"Recently, I was made aware of a failed attempt to breach the firewall that protects Georgia's voter registration database by an IP address associated with the Department of Homeland Security," Kemp wrote in a post on Facebook. "On Thursday morning, I sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson demanding to know why."

DHS acknowledged and promised to look into the allegations in Kemp's letter, which noted that Georgia has not authorized the agency to "conduct penetration testing or security scans of our network," nor has the federal government notified the state that any such tests were required or ordered. Before the election, Kemp specifically rebuffed DHS offers of cybersecurity assistance, arguing that they represent an unwarranted federal intrusion of states' authority to manage their own elections. Bonnie Kristian

9:58 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Just days after President-elect Donald Trump publicly criticized Boeing, it was announced that the aircraft manufacturer has pledged $1 million to help cover costs for Trump's inaugural events. Boeing, notably, donated the same amount to President Obama's inaugural events in 2013, and it committed its donation to Trump previous to this week's events.

Still, the donation suggests Trump's tweeting hasn't soured relations between Boeing, which has a contract with the government to develop the next Air Force One, and America's next president. Trump on Tuesday criticized Boeing for the "out of control" costs of its Air Force One project, and even suggested canceling the order.

That prompted Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenberg to reach out to Trump later that same day to assure him costs would be kept under control. The next day, Trump said in an interview with MSNBC that Muilenberg is a "very good man," and that he is certain they were "going to work it out."

Muilenberg confirmed in an email to USA TODAY that Boeing is "pleased to continue our tradition of supporting presidential inaugurations." Becca Stanek

9:21 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The man who could be America's next secretary of labor has a penchant for putting bikini-clad women in fast food restaurant ads. Andy Puzder, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee, is CEO of the company that owns burger chains including Hardee's and Carl's Jr., the latter of which has taken a lot of flak in the last decade for its racy TV advertisements.

To promote its "Bacon 3-Way" burger over the summer, Carl's Jr. released a spot featuring three bikini-clad blondes feeding each other strips of bacon in slow motion while the song lyrics "we havin' us a threesome" played in the background. Back in 2005, there was an infamous ad featuring Paris Hilton in a barely-there black swimsuit washing a Bentley and biting into a juicy burger. And aside from Hilton's ad and the "Bacon 3-way" spot, stars like Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton, and countless Sports Illustrated models have appeared in Carl's Jr. commercials.

Though the controversial ads have led "women's groups, religious activists, and academics" to complain, The New York Times reported Puzder has shrugged off concerns. "I like our ads," Puzder told Entrepreneur in an interview published in May 2015. "I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it's very American."

Besides, Puzder argued, the complaints don't exactly hurt business. "What you look at is, you look at sales," Puzder said. "And our sales go up." Becca Stanek

8:51 a.m. ET

As the presidential election was winding down, then-candidate Donald Trump was feeding millions of dollars into his campaign — and his family's businesses. The latest Federal Election Commission disclosure, which tracks from Oct. 20 to Nov. 28, reveals Trump paid his family-owned businesses nearly $2.9 million during that period of time.

Some of the payments occurred after Election Day, and some, The Wall Street Journal pointed out, "appear to be routine payments for rent and payroll" as well as air travel. Not all of the payments seemed to be "routine" though:

The campaign also paid $4,275 to the Trump International Golf Club in Bedminster County, New Jersey, for "lodging” on Nov. 22, the weekend Mr. Trump holed up there to interview potential Cabinet nominees. That same weekend, the campaign paid $6,850 to Eric Trump's wine manufacturing company for "facility rental and catering services." [The Wall Street Journal]

All in all, The Wall Street Journal reported Trump's spending on family businesses in the weeks immediately before and after the election amounted to "a third of the total amount he had previously paid his businesses over the course of the campaign." In total, Trump spent about $12 million on family-owned companies and his kids' travel expenses.

To read the full breakdown of Trump's spending, head over to The Wall Street Journal. Becca Stanek

7:53 a.m. ET
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

On Friday, World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren released a report he says conclusively proves that Russian athletes and government officials were involved in a massive "institutional conspiracy" to give performance-enhancing drugs to Olympic athletes and cover up that doping. The conspiracy involved the Russian Sports Ministry, the FSB intelligence service, and the Russian anti-doping agency, the Canadian law professor said, with irrefutable proof — including DNA analysis — that athlete samples across 30 sports were swapped on a large scale to avoid detection at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics — including 12 Russian medalists.

The report, which will be passed on to the International Olympic Committee, expands on a preliminary report WADA issued in July. The IOC, which has two commissions looking into doping allegations, declined to issue a blanket ban on Russian athletes for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The organization will have to decide what to do with Russian athletes in the 2018 Games in light of McLaren's investigation. Peter Weber

7:48 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump took a moment at his victory tour rally Thursday night to defend his selection of several billionaires and millionaires for his Cabinet. "One newspaper criticized me: 'Why can't they have people of modest means?'" Trump said, while speaking in Des Moines, Iowa. "Because I want people that made a fortune! Because now they're negotiating with you, okay?"

Trump has not yet finished making appointments, but already his Cabinet is shaping up to be one of the wealthiest ever. Trump's pick for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, is worth an estimated $2.5 billion; Betsy DeVos, who Trump tapped for education secretary, comes from a family worth $5.1 billion; and Trump's pick for head of the Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon, and her husband have an estimated net worth of $1.16 billion.

But, Trump said Thursday, these billionaires are going to put money-making on hold to join his administration. "These people have given up fortunes of income in order to make a dollar a year, and they're so proud to do it, and you watch, you watch what's gonna happen," he said. "It's gonna happen fast, too."

Watch Trump make his case below. Becca Stanek

7:06 a.m. ET

Trevor Noah is confused at how Hillary Clinton can win more than 2.5 million more votes than Donald Trump and still lose the presidency, and if you support the Electoral College that allowed this to happen — as many Republicans do after Trump's win — Noah makes some good points that are maybe more obvious to someone approaching the U.S. electoral system from the outside. "If you're like me, you probably thought that on Election Day, Americans were going to the polls to elect a president," he said on Wednesday's Daily Show. But no, confusingly, voters elect electors to vote on their behalf.

"There are two ways to pick a president," Noah said: "There's giving it to the person with the most votes — commonly known as democracy — and then there's how America does it," the Electoral College. "The person with more votes should win," he argued. "This is a weird system, because no other country decides elections this way. It's even weird in America, you understand that? You don't elect mayors like this in America, you don't elect governors like this, you don't even elect idols like this. The presidency is the only office where for some reason you don't trust the popular vote."

By the way, Noah said — before you can accuse him of playing partisan politics — "this is not about Trump. You know the system is broken because the person with more votes lost in two of the last five elections. That's 40 percent — 40 percent! If a plumber told me that every time I flushed my toilet, there'd be a 40 percent chance s—t would spray back at me, I'd be like, 'Maybe I need a new toilet.' But America's like, 'I've had this toilet for 200 years, I'll be fine, I'll be fine — [flush] — Trump!"

Thanks to the Electoral College, millions of people end up voting for the candidate they didn't vote for, Noah pointed out. "So the 4 million people who voted for Hillary in Texas? Or the 2.5 million who voted for Trump in New York? They just don't count. They're like lines of dialogue in a Fast and Furious movie — they're there, but they have no real value." He turned to a virtual Thomas Jefferson (Jordan Klepper) for advice on fixing the Electoral College, but there's only so much a smartphone app can do. Peter Weber

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