- Last week, President Trump ordered meatpacking and processing facilities to stay open despite large outbreaks forcing several to close.
- While many large meat companies cheered the move, they have been slow to reopen plants.
- On Monday, Tyson, which pushed heavily for a federal effort to keep these facilities open, said it would close even more plants this year.
- Experts say consumers can expect to start seeing shortages in some stores, less variety, and higher prices.
Meat Plants Stay Closed
Dozens of meatpacking and processing facilities that temporarily stopped operations due to coronavirus outbreaks have remained shuttered despite an executive order signed by President Donald Trump last week compelling them to stay open.
Through the order, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to classify the plants as critical infrastructure which must remain open.
Almost a week after the president signed the executive order, barely any of the companies that own closed plants have said they are going to reopen.
JBS USA announced it would partially reopen one of its pork production plants in Minnesota, but only to euthanize pigs that cannot be processed because the plant is closed.
On Monday, Tyson said it expects more of its plants to close this year and added that it will be producing less meat than normal.
“We have and expect to continue to face slowdowns and temporary idling of production facilities from team member shortages or choices we make to ensure operational safety,” the meat industry giant, which was among the companies leading the charge to reopen, said in a statement.
Meat Facility Cases Continue to Grow
The slow reopening comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases at meat facilities continues to grow. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that at least 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died and more than 4,900 have tested positive.
Like all other cases in the U.S., due to lack of testing, that number is likely lower than the actual amount.
That is especially true for the meat industry because many major plants are in rural communities where testing and access to healthcare is extremely limited.
The number of confirmed cases and deaths are also expected to be a lot lower due to a high amount of asymptomatic cases.
On Monday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said in a press release that more than 370 workers at a plant in the state tested positive for the virus, and all of them were asymptomatic.
Major meat industry leaders said that they are implementing more safety measures to protect workers, like providing protective equipment, taking workers temperatures, disinfecting facilities, and more.
But it remains unclear how widespread those efforts are, or if they are even going to be enough.
Possible Shortages and Other Issues
As the situation continues, experts have warned that meat shortage, or at least shortages in some stores, are still imminent despite Trump’s efforts.
According to data released last week by the Department of Agriculture, 10 to 15% of cattle slaughter capacity has been halted, while 25 to 30% of hog slaughter was shutdown. At the same time, industry analysts have estimated that retail sales are up about 30 to 40%.
That is already beginning to have an impact on the meat options people have in markets. On Friday, Kroger, the country’s biggest traditional supermarket chain, said it was limiting how much ground beef and fresh pork customers could purchase “at select stores.”
In general, wholesale prices for both types of meat have spiked significantly, meaning it is more expensive for consumers to buy them too.
Experts now say consumers can expect to see higher prices for certain meat that is high in demand, a smaller variety of meat, and fewer products overall at markets in the coming weeks and months.
However, at the same time, other stores like Walmart, which is the nation’s largest retailer period, say they are not concerned.
“As we would normally do during periods of high demand, we are working through our supply chain to continually replenish items as quickly as possible to help us meet the needs of our customers,” the company said in a statement.
However, many experts have said that even as more plants open up, it does not mean production will be higher.
“While President Trump’s executive order is aimed at motivating meat processing plants to stay in operation, whether or not that’s actually possible will come down to workers, not management,” TIME explained in a report last week.
“If workers fall ill or are concerned enough for their own safety that they choose not to return, it won’t matter if plants re-open or not.”
With the pandemic continuing and meat shortages likely, state data and hunting groups show that more and more Americans are turning to hunting for food.
“Game and fish agencies from Minnesota to New Mexico have reported an increase in either hunting license sales, permit applications, or both this spring,” Reuters reported Sunday. “Indiana saw a 28% jump in turkey license sales during the first week of the season as hunters likely had more time to get out into the woods.”
Meanwhile, states like Washington and Illinois that closed state lands during the pandemic have been lobbied by the National Rifle Association to keep those lands open so people can hunt for food.
Josh Hawley Claims Ethics Complaint Against Him Is “Cancel Culture”
- Seven Democratic Senators filed an ethics complaint against Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz last week over their efforts in leading objections to the certification of the presidential election.
- The group urged the Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into whether Cruz and Hawley’s actions inspired violence or if there were any connections between the two Senators, their staffers, and the insurrectionists.
- Hawley filed a counter-complaint against the seven Democrats Monday, arguing that they were engaging in cancel culture.
- “Your baseless allegations are in that sense unfortunately typical of today’s leftwing cancel culture, a culture that tramples on the democratic traditions that left and right once defended together,” he wrote.
Ethics Committee Complaints
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) filed a counter-complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee Monday alleging that a group of Democratic senators were engaging in “cancel culture” by calling for a recent investigation into his conduct.
Last week, seven Democratic senators, lead by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), filed an ethics complaint against Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) for leading the objection to the certification of the presidential election
In the complaint, the members accused Hawley and Cruz of legitimizing the false claims that prompted the insurrection in the first place and then continuing to “amplify the claims of fraud that they likely knew to be baseless and that had led to violence earlier that day,” by still voting to object.
The letter also noted that both Cruz and Hawley touted their plan to object to the certification as a way to collect more campaign donations. It argued that they continued to do so while the Capitol was literally under siege and even after the insurrection.
As a result, the seven Democrats urged the Ethics Committee to investigate whether there was any coordination between Hawley, Cruz, or their staffers and the insurrectionists, if they knew about the plans for the Jan. 6 rally, or if they took donations from people and organizations involved.
They also implored the committee to look into whether the actions of the two Senators actions inspired violence or “otherwise engaged in criminal conduct, or unethical or improper behavior.” If any evidence is found, the Democrats recommended the committee take “strong disciplinary action, including up to expulsion or censure.”
Hawley Speaks Out
In his counter-complaint, Hawley accused the Democrats of trampling on free speech in an attempt to “cancel” him.
“This line of thinking is, however, sadly consistent with the new woke-mob mentality that you should cancel anyone who disagrees with your views,” he wrote. “Your baseless allegations are in that sense unfortunately typical of today’s leftwing cancel culture, a culture that tramples on the democratic traditions that left and right once defended together.”
Hawley also echoed that sentiment in a cover essay published by The New York Post on Monday, where claimed he has been “canceled” and “muzzled” over his attempts to stop the Democratic election of President Joe Biden from being certified.
Both the letter and the article attracted significant backlash online and in the media. In a particularly scathing critique, CNN Tonight host Don Lemon condemned Hawley for claiming he was being censored.
“No one has muzzled Josh Hawley. What happened to Josh Hawley isn’t cancel culture. It’s called consequences,” Lemon said. “That’s how the First Amendment works. Say whatever you want, but you gotta pay the price if you say something stupid, or you do something stupid or treasonous, or if you try to overturn a duly elected president, right?”
“Don’t fall for this, people,” he continued. “Think about the actions in the Capitol. Think about what happened, think about the people who died, think about the cops who were beaten by people. Think about all that.”
Dominion Files $1.3 Billion Defamation Suit Against Rudy Giuliani
- Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company, including that the manufacturer led an effort to flip votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
- The lawsuit alleges Giuliani, the former president’s personal lawyer, spread the disinformation in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.
- It also links his false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at a rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.
- This is the second suit Dominion has filed against a Trump campaign lawyer, and an attorney for the company said it might bring similar cases against pro-Trump media outlets or Trump himself.
Dominion Sues Giuliani
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company.
Dominion, which is one of the largest voting machine manufacturers in the U.S., became the main target for widespread election fraud conspiracies spread by Giuliani and other Trump allies. Those individuals falsely claimed with no evidence that Dominion machines, widely used in key battleground states, were flipping votes from Trump to President Joe Biden.
Now, the company claims that Giuliani and his allies “manufactured and disseminated the ‘Big Lie,’ which foreseeably went viral and deceived millions of people into believing that Dominion had stolen their votes and fixed the election.”
The lawsuit alleges that he did this in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast. It notes that Trump’s top lawyer “reportedly demanded $20,000 per day” for his legal services to the president, and arguing that he “cashed in by hosting a podcast where he exploited election falsehoods to market gold coins, supplements, cigars and protection from ‘cyberthieves.’”
The 107-page suit also specifically outlines more than 50 statements Giuliani made on Twitter, his podcast, to the conservative media, and during legislative hearings. Notably, the company points out that he never mentioned Dominion in court where he could face legal ramifications because he knew what he was claiming was false.
Despite that, Giuliani continued to push the false narrative, even after Dominion sent him a letter in December warning they were going to take legal action against him.
The lawsuit also links Giuliani’s false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at the rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.
According to reports, even after the insurrection, he has still continued to spread those falsities as recently as last week.
“Dominion’s founder and employees have been harassed and have received death threats, and Dominion has suffered unprecedented and irreparable harm,” the court document states.
Other Defamation Cases
The case against Giuliani is not the first defamation suit Dominion has brought against Trump allies in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, the company filed a similar claim against former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell where it also sought $1.3 billion in damages over her false assertions that Dominion was part of a world-wide communist plot to rig the election.
Separately, one of Dominion’s top executives has also filed lawsuits against Giuliani, the Trump campaign, and several pro-Trump media outlets after he was forced into hiding due to conspiracies that he masterminded the plot to steal the election.
These cases could just be the start. According to NPR, an attorney for Dominion said it was possible that the company would file additional suits against pro-Trump media outlets — such as Fox News — and even potentially Trump himself.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Axios)
House To Send Impeachment Article Monday, Starting Impeachment Trial Process
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the House will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the impeachment trial process.
- The news comes one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
- The senators could still come to their own agreement to delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.
- Some Democrats have signaled support for this move because it would give them extra time to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominations before the trial starts.
Pelosi To Send Impeachment Article
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday.
The move will officially trigger the start of the impeachment trial process. The announcement comes one day after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
Despite Pelosi’s decision, the senators still could come to their own agreement to start the ceremonial proceedings but delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.
In fact, Democrats, who have been pushing for a schedule that would allow them to still confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees before the trial proceedings start each day, have signaled that they might not oppose a delay because it would give them extra time for confirmations.
During his announcement this morning, Schumer indicated that the details were still being hashed out.
“I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” he said. “But make no mistake a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote on whether to convict the president.”
McConnell, for his part, responded by reiterating that his party will continue to press for Trump’s team to be given enough time.
“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” he said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense.”
While the leaders may not have worked out the particulars yet, according to reports, both parties have already agreed that this trial will be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment, which lasted three weeks.
Implications for Power-Sharing Deal
The new impeachment trial deadline could also speed up the currently stalled negotiations between Schumer and McConnell regarding how power will be shared in a Senate with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats effectively control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote, but she cannot always be there to resolve every dispute.
As a result, McConnell and Schumer have been working to come up with a power-sharing deal for day to day operations, similar to one that was struck in 2001 the last time the Senate was split 50-50. However, those negotiations have hit a roadblock: the legislative filibuster.
The filibuster is the long-standing Senate rule that requires a supermajority of at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on a given piece of legislation before moving to a full floor vote. Technically, all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris could agree to change the rule to just require a simple majority to legislation advance, or what’s known as the “nuclear option.”
That move, in effect, would allow them to get through controversial legislation without any bipartisan support, as long as every Democrat stays within party lines. Many more progressive Democrats have pushed for this move, arguing that the filibuster stands in the way of many of their and Biden’s top priorities.
Given this possibility, McConnell has demanded that Democrats agree to protect the filibuster and promise not to pursue the nuclear option as part of the power-sharing deal.
But top Democrats have rejected that demand, with many arguing that having the threat of filibuster is necessary to get Republicans to compromise.
In other words: if Republicans fear that Democrats will “go nuclear,” they will be more likely to agree to certain bills and measures to avoid that.