In This Episode
- Today marks a year since the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol where supporters of former President Donald Trump tried to violently overturn the 2020 election. Among the Congressmembers who saw all of this unfold is New York Rep. Mondaire Jones. He joins us to discuss the work the House committee is doing to investigate that day, what more needs to be done and what the future of our democracy looks like.
- And in headlines: A tragic fire at a Philadelphia row house killed 12 people, Kazakhstan declared a nationwide state of emergency after days of anti-government protests, and Chicago public schools stopped in-person instruction amid a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases.
- NY Times: “In the Capitol’s Shadow, the Jan. 6 Panel Quietly Ramps Up Its Inquiry” – https://nyti.ms/3qVmaWL
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, January 6th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, where we’re glad the Grammys got postponed so we can work on our debut jazz vocal album.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right. We’re not sure exactly how the Grammys work, but we are hoping we can squeeze this in under the wire.
Tre’vell Anderson: First, we need to learn jazz.
Gideon Resnick: And instruments, as well. On today’s show, a tragic fire at a row house in Philadelphia killed 12 people yesterday, including eight children. Plus the nine-time Australian Open champ Novak Djokovic cannot defend his title after the country denied him entry for being unvaccinated.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first today marks a year since the insurrection at the US Capitol, where supporters of former President Donald Trump tried to violently overturn the 2020 election. In the aftermath, five Capitol Police officers died, one as a result of the complications following his injuries from that day, and four others who committed suicide. So far, the Justice Department has arrested more than 700 people who participated in the riot. And yesterday, Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke about what the DOJ has done so far and plans to do in the future.
[clip of AG Merrick Garland] The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last. The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators at any level accountable under law.
Tre’vell Anderson: Garland has been under increasing pressure to do more with the investigation, including holding Trump accountable.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And the House Select Committee investigating the attack has reportedly indicated it is willing to recommend the DOJ investigate or prosecute former President Trump and others should they come across evidence that they broke the law. And there has been an increasing urgency to the committee’s work as they piece this all together, and we’ll link to a story discussing that in our show notes. Among the House members who saw all of this unfold last year is New York representative Mondaire Jones. He joined us in the days after the insurrection, and he’s back today to talk to us about the work the House is doing, what more needs to be done, and what the future of our democracy looks like. Welcome back to What A Day.
Rep. Mondaire Jones: Thanks for having me back.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, of course. So the last time that we spoke with you, you said that you’d want to hold any Republican lawmaker accountable who fanned these flames, even push to remove them from office. You also had hoped that Republican senators would vote to convict former President Trump of impeachment, which, as we know, they did not. So here we are a year later, those things haven’t happened. The process has become insanely partisan. So how did this insurrection become so politicized that it’s actually impacting any inquiry into it?
Rep. Mondaire Jones: I will just observe that Democrats still got a lot done last year. I mean, we passed the American Rescue Plan, we passed the largest infrastructure investment in the nation’s history. However, because of the obstruction and the lying of our Republican colleagues in Congress, we could not do much to strengthen our ailing democracy. The reason that Republicans didn’t do that is because they recognize that voter disenfranchisement, that the Big Lie is the engine of Republican power in a diversifying America. The Republican Party is captive to Donald Trump. The Republican base is still with him, despite the obvious role that he played on January 6th in inciting that insurrection that nearly killed me and hundreds of my colleagues. And of course, he finds great comfort and support on the right-wing TV networks. That is why we are at a point where my Republican colleagues still have not expelled those who helped to incite the violent insurrection from within Congress. And certainly, it’s the reason why we couldn’t get enough Republican senators to convict over in the Senate.
Gideon Resnick: And from your personal perspective, how frustrating is all of this to even think about right now?
Rep. Mondaire Jones: Frustrating is an understatement. Americans of good conscience should be furious that a major political party has elevated reelection and narrow electoral self-interest over the good of the country, over American democracy itself.
Gideon Resnick: I want to talk for a second about the actual investigative work that’s going on on January 6th. So can you walk through a little bit some of the valuable things that have come out of the various House committees’ work to investigate it?
Rep. Mondaire Jones: We have seen proof of what I think many of us suspected if we didn’t know, which was that senior White House officials and people very close to the president understood the direct leading role he played in inciting that violent insurrection. And in the case of people like Sean Hannity, understood that to be the case to the point where he was advising against it.
Tre’vell Anderson: There was a story in the New York Times yesterday getting at the point that basically the Department of Justice hasn’t yet indicated whether or not they’re going to be pursuing a case against Trump. From your understanding, why is that and what do you think should happen there?
Rep. Mondaire Jones: There’s only so much confidence I can have with the decisions of the Department of Justice led by Merrick Garland without all of the information that he has available to him. I will say I can pretty confidently criticize the fact that the attorney general has expressed discomfort with prosecuting Donald Trump because, in his view, it would violate a norm whereby justice departments don’t go after the leader of the party that’s not in power. But the obvious fallacy in that way of thinking is that any president can then be above the law, and that is more damaging to the rule of law. That is more damaging.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, we’ve spoken a little bit about how politicized this has become. A recent poll by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland found that 72% of Republicans surveyed think that Trump bears just some or no blame at all for what happened last year. How, in your idea, in your mind, do we get Republicans and other conservatives to take this as seriously as the rest of us are at least?
Rep. Mondaire Jones: It’s not going to be through kindly asking them to reconsider their position. It’s going to be through the kinds of democracy reforms that get more representative government. It is a distortion of our democracy that through partisan gerrymandering QAnon conspiracy theories coast to victory in general election contests simply because they prevailed in their Republican primaries. That’s how you get crazy people like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and Jim Jordan to Congress. It’s also the case that when you get people in Congress on the Republican side who are willing to tell the truth about what happened on January 6th, to say nothing of the truth about vaccines and COVID-19, you will see, I think, a recalibration on Fox News and similar networks. Those networks were not as bad a few years ago before Donald Trump at least, as they are today. They are responding to this new dynamic where Donald Trump has empowered people to say certain things, to lie about things, largely through coercion. I mean, because if you oppose him, then he’ll endorse your primary opponent and then you’ll be out of elected office. And of course, some things should matter more than that but unfortunately for a lot of people, for too many people, that alone is prohibitive of them doing the right thing. So the Freedom to Vote Act would end partisan gerrymandering. It would also allow more people to vote who are technically constitutionally eligible to vote, but who in practice, because of racist voter disenfranchisement in states like Georgia, in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona, are being prohibited from voting. And of course, when they’re allowed to vote, you also get better people in Congress. And in the White House.
Tre’vell Anderson: There’s this recent study on domestic terrorism by the Chicago Project on Security and Threats and the National Opinion Research Center that said 21 million adults actually sympathize with the insurrectionists. What in your mind are worries or concerns if that sentiment continues to spread and become more mainstream?
Rep. Mondaire Jones: There is a feeling among the Republican base of desperation, of anger at a changing America and by changing America, I mean the diversification of America. The insurrection on January 6th was about white nationalism. When Republicans vote not to certify a presidential election, when they themselves were on the same ballot and were themselves elected in that same election, what they’re saying is that we don’t like the results when people of color succeed in getting the candidates they prefer elected, but so long as we get elected, that’s totally fine. We want to disenfranchise people of color is what 2/3rds of my House Republican colleagues were saying when they voted not to certify that free and fair presidential election just hours after nearly dying alongside me at the Capitol.
Gideon Resnick: We’ve been talking a lot about how this is like symptomatic of a way larger thing that’s happening. So what else needs to be done other than a House investigation to sort of remove the roots in which this movement grew, if you will, and restore people’s trust in the democratic process, even if their chosen politician loses an election?
Rep. Mondaire Jones: Well, we’ve got to deal with this issue of election subversion, which is a relatively new phenomenon. We need to pass voting rights legislation like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. We also need to do what I think the commission will propose, which is amend the Electoral Count Act. Even those legislative solutions will not end all of the lying that people are seeing and hearing on Fox News and right-wing networks and blogs and publications. We need leadership that is willing to take media to task. And I really am talking about this as a Republican problem. There’s just no equivalency, despite mainstream media trying to both-sides so much of what happened on January 6th or the opposition to voting rights, which like, should not be treated as a reasonable disagreement—you know, when you have one major political party devoted to undermining American democracy, that is something that should be uniformly described as dystopian and hellish and cause for alarm in mainstream publications like the Times and The Washington Post and Politico. But not always so, unfortunately.
Tre’vell Anderson: Very, very that. We’re doing what we can over here with the WAD squad. But New York Congressman Mondaire Jones, thanks again for joining us today.
Rep. Mondaire Jones: Thanks for having me back.
Tre’vell Anderson: More on all of this very soon, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: Several families in Philadelphia are picking up the pieces after a quick-moving fire torched a row house early yesterday morning. Twelve people died, including eight children, when the blaze tore through two crowded apartments owned by the city’s Public Housing Authority. Here’s Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy yesterday:
[clip of Craig Murphy] I’ve been around for 30, 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I’ve ever been to.
Tre’vell Anderson: City and federal officials are currently investigating what started the blaze. But they did say it’s possible that it might have been fueled by a Christmas tree. Firefighters added that none of the building’s six smoke detectors were operating at the time of the fire. But in a statement, the head of Philly’s Housing Authority said those detectors were working properly during an inspection last May. The city’s police commission also said it’s too early to say if those 13 deaths might be considered homicides and if there might be a criminal investigation into the fire.
Gideon Resnick: It’s really awful. Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a nationwide state of emergency yesterday after days of violent anti-government protests. Demonstrations began on Sunday in the city of Mangystau after the government announced that it would double the price of liquefied petroleum gas. Tokayev said that he would reverse the price hike on Tuesday in hopes of calming the violence. But these protests continued to spread with new demands for better political representation and improved social benefits. In Almaty, the country’s biggest city, protesters stormed the mayor’s office and set fire to multiple government buildings. Tokayev announced that he accepted his cabinet’s resignation yesterday as well, per the demands of the thousands of protesters that took to the streets. But Almaty police say that they’ve detained over 200 demonstrators so far, and Kazakhstan’s authorities have shut down the country’s internet. The country’s state of emergency will last until January 19th, and Russia’s Collective Security Treaty Organization will send troops to help contain the violence that could potentially spread across Central Asia.
Tre’vell Anderson: Chicago Public Schools chose the little-known third option after remote and in-person learning yesterday—literally no school—following a vote late Tuesday night by the Chicago Teachers Union to stop providing in-person instruction amid a record breaking surge in coronavirus cases. Union members support a switch to remote learning and have cited the city’s failure to provide testing as one reason why. Chicago officials have demanded that classes be taught in person, arguing that remote learning disadvantages working families. When the two parties couldn’t see eye-to-eye Tuesday night, the only option left was a brief vacation. It’s set to continue at least through today after Chicago Public School officials canceled classes for the second day in a row. The White House is standing with the city in support of in-person teaching, with press secretary Jen Psaki saying yesterday that the nation is quote, “more than equipped to ensure schools are open, including in Chicago.” Here’s some good news for teens and tweens who can’t wait to get back their beloved beige halls and squeaky floors: yesterday, the CDC endorsed booster shots for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12 to 17.
Gideon Resnick: I think the only thing worse than being a school-aged kid during the pandemic might be being a parent of a school-aged kid during the pandemic. This is a nightmare.
Tre’vell Anderson: I do not envy them, and that’s why I have no kids. Shout out to me.
Gideon Resnick: Shout out to you. Moving on. Pro tennis players have permission to say ‘love’ instead of zero, but it turns out there are some rules that still apply to them. The sport’s highest-ranked competitor, Novak Djokovic, was denied entry to Australia yesterday for being unvaccinated, likely preventing him from defending his title at the Australian Open later this month. Djokovic allegedly holds a medical vaccine exemption that was accepted by officials from the tournament and the event’s host state of Victoria, but he lacks the documentation required by Australia’s federal government, who canceled his visa 10 hours after he arrived in the country and sent him home to do more of his own research. Also in news about the world’s most ripped vaccine skeptics: star point guard for the Brooklyn Nets Kyrie Irving—remember him?—played his first game of the NBA season last night, months after New York City’s vaccination mandate made him ineligible to play at home. The Nets face off against the Pacers in Indiana, where there is no vaccine mandate. Remember that the key to being a good basketball player is knowing and abiding by local rules and ordinances around taking medicine.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know, I actually don’t care if you can dribble the ball, I just care that you get vaccinated to protect not only yourself, but the rest of us as well.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. Kyrie, we need you to not have to meet your teammates on the tarmac or another city in order to play. And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, study local rules and ordinances, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just local rules and ordinances like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And keep postponing the Grammys!
Gideon Resnick: I need to learn more scales.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, you pick up the—what’s that thing called?—the saxophone, and I’ll do like the bass.
Gideon Resnick: Sure.
Tre’vell Anderson: This will be a perfect combination.
Gideon Resnick: Those are the two instruments necessary for any jazz band that will win a Grammy. We got this. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.