In This Episode
- Donald Trump’s second annual impeachment trial is over, after a vote of 57 to 43 led to his acquittal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday that an independent commission will be established to investigate the insurrection.
- Yesterday, the WHO granted emergency use authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will kick off a UN-backed program to get vaccines to developing countries. In the US, average new daily coronavirus infections fell under 100,000 for the first time since November.
- And in headlines: freezing temperatures lead to power outages for millions, activists undergo hunger strike in Chicago, and blowback after New York’s Health Department undercounts COVID deaths in nursing homes.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, February 16th. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick and this is What a Day. We’re reminding you that throwing Mardi Gras beads is actually a COVID safe activity.
Akilah Hughes: That’s right. And eating a lot of food like we do every day is actually a way to celebrate.
Gideon Resnick: Have two cakes today, two for the price of one, you know. On today’s show, what is next now that Trump’s impeachment trial is over? Then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest.
[clip of Dr. Rochelle Walensky:] We are still at about 100,000 cases a day. We are still at around 1,500 to 3,500 deaths per day. The cases are more than two and a half fold times what we saw over the summer. It’s encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they’re coming down from an extraordinarily high place. And as I said earlier, if we want to get our children back to school and I believe we all do, it all depends on how much community spread is out there. We need to all take responsibility to decrease that community spread, including mask wearing so that we can get our kids and our society back.
Akilah Hughes: That was CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky over the weekend talking about COVID cases in the U.S. and why it’s too early for states to be rolling back mask mandates, as we’re seeing in places like Iowa and Montana. Come on, y’all like the mask mandate isn’t that bad. You could wait a little bit longer. And on that note, let’s talk about the current state of the pandemic in the U.S. Over the weekend, average new daily infections actually fell under 100,000 for the first time since November, according to Johns Hopkins. The decline is something Walensky noted, and I believe we discussed it with Dr. Fauci last week. If you didn’t hear that episode, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life Go listen. But do we know at this point why it’s happening?
Gideon Resnick: Yes, so there’s a couple of theories that are going around that experts have been pointing to, according to The Washington Post. First is basically that social behavior has changed since the peaks of the holiday season that really drove those cases through the roof. People are hypothetically distancing more, gathering less. Second is vaccinations, though there have been some public health officials that say the number of vaccinations is actually not quite high enough at this point to do that on its own. And then another is that testing is actually down at the moment, which would be the bad part of this. There’s some evidence from the COVID tracking project that suggests that limited resources may be shifting from testing to vaccinations, which just mean we’re more in the dark. That aspect and the presence of variants is why we are hearing a lot of caution about complacency right now.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and meanwhile the pace of vaccinations has picked up in the U.S. According to the CDC, now, over 50 million doses have been administered, but it’s still a race against time and variants.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, it is. And that race is happening across the globe. Yesterday, the World Health Organization granted emergency use authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine. And this authorization is important because it is supposed to kick off this COVAX program, which is a U.N. backed effort to get vaccines to vulnerable poorer countries who did not have the means to buy up those doses in advance. According to the AP, the COVAX program is already running behind schedule. And there’s also a reported concern that the program won’t fully deliver, which has led some countries to go their own way in securing deals on their own. Overall, COVAX is aiming for over 300 million doses by the end of June and two billion by the end of the year. Also, according to the AP, the reason that the authorization from WHO is important here is that some of these countries in question don’t have the resources to thoroughly assess these vaccines on their own for approval.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, but not everyone is on the same page on the AstraZeneca vaccine. For example, South Africa just paused its rollout.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, they did. And that’s because there was a small trial in South Africa that found that it might not be effective at preventing mild to moderate illness from the variant there. And then the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that countries in the region should prioritize other vaccines for now. The WHO though still recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine even in countries that have these variants.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s talk about another vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNTech one. We got a look at some new evidence of how well it’s working. So what have we learned?
Gideon Resnick: It is working great. There was a study out of Israel that looked at 600,000 people who had received two doses, and it found that there was a 94 percent drop in symptomatic infections. Also, that this group was 92 percent less likely to develop serious illness. So great, great numbers. And this is the country’s largest vaccine study that they’ve done so far. According to The Wall Street Journal. It’s definitely being viewed as a positive sign as to the vaccine’s real world effectiveness and it backs up the very positive data that was captured in those clinical trials. More on vaccines and COVID soon. But now it is once again time for maybe the last impeachment news blast.
[Linkin Park music clip] Oh.
Gideon Resnick: Oh, my God.
Akilah Hughes: Wow, wow.
Gideon Resnick: Unbelievable.
Akilah Hughes: Art, from Charlotte Landes. Art.
Gideon Resnick: If we, if we get another impeachment just for Linkin Park . . .hoo! I’m there. God bless. God bless Linkin Park. God bless. Hybrid Theory. OK, Donald Trump’s second annual impeachment trial is over. By now you know that he was acquitted by a vote of 57 to 43. That’s the most bipartisan impeachment vote in Senate history, but still 10 votes short of the 67 needed to convict. The acquittal came on Saturday, just five days into the trial, along with some last minute back and forth on whether witnesses should be called or not. They were not. And so before we get into what comes next, let’s talk about how the trial came to an end.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I mean, for a minute, it was sort of chaotic. So on Saturday, House managers made a surprise request to call witnesses, including Republican Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler. She had issued a statement the night before about a phone call that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had with Trump during the capital attack. She said that McCarthy told her that he called Trump to ask him to call off the riot. And Trump told him, quote “I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” Wow. Garbage. Well, the House managers felt this was important for establishing Trump’s state of mind during the attack, that he was aware of the violence and not doing anything to stop it. So, the possibility of calling witnesses went to a vote and it passed with all Democrats voting in favor plus five Republicans. Then majority leader Chuck Schumer called a recess to huddle and figure out how to move forward. And in the end, they decided not to bring in any witnesses at all. But enter Herrera Beutler’s statement into the record and just move on. So Democrats opened the door and then immediately closed it. Gideon, were you watching this and what did you make of it?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, it just seemed kind of tough to go from, Trump is this existential threat, you know, trying to send an insurrection to kill all of us too, ok, let’s move on with this vote. Like it’s harder to take them seriously when they’re moving from one thing to the next. But the truth was there was pressure from senators in both parties to not drag this trial on. You had Trump’s defense team threatening to depose over 100 people if the house managers wanted to even call one witness. So it seems like that threat kind of worked, which also is not good, really? That you just respond.
Akilah Hughes: You don’t fall for it. We got time. Who cares?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, but, you know, there was also the sense of inevitability among some Democrats that Trump was going to be acquitted even after witnesses. But again, this is all sort of playing into this view that this was another example of Democrats rolling over for Republicans here, rather than using the power that they have been given by voters to hold this guy accountable. Anyway, now that Trump has been acquitted, let’s talk about where things go from here. There were growing calls over the weekend for a 9/11 style commission to investigate the insurrection. What does that actually mean?
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she will move forward on this. And it comes after House impeachment manager Madeleine Dean and Senator Chris Coons both expressed support for a commission. But surprisingly, the sort of investigation already has bipartisan support. Senator Lindsey Graham, that lying snake, told Fox News Sunday that he, too, supports a 9/11 style commission, as did Senator Bill Cassidy, who was one of the seven Republicans that voted to convict Trump. And it could work much like the 9/11 Commission. And impartial independent commission would be tasked with questioning a slew of people involved about what happened and what information they had leading up to the event. There’s a lot of details that warrant further inquiry. Like Trump’s actions or non-actions on the day, what he knew about the violence unfolding, the threat to Pence and when he knew about it. So this would be Congress’s last chance to get to the bottom of it. Hopefully they actually make it count this time.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And lastly, now that the second impeachment is over, any final thoughts on all of this?
Akilah Hughes: Quite a few. So I think the biggest thing we should take away from this is that being acquitted by a body that consists of coconspirators does not equal innocence and we really can’t proceed like it does. It just means what every marginalized person ever has told us, that the justice system is not actually just. But also there’s now added pressure for Democrats to deliver on COVID relief and immigration reforms and climate change initiatives, because that has been floated widely as a reason to hurry up and end the impeachment rather than calling witnesses. And it would be foolish to assume that these votes that we gave them are guaranteed for next time. So please start performing. And yeah the pressure is on, we are watching. For old time’s sake, though, before we move on, let’s just hear one final impeachment news blast.
[music clip] [music]
Gideon Resnick: Pure majesty.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Oh, excellent. And that’s the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad, and today we’re talking about reboots. So last Friday, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Donald Glover announced they’re rebooting the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith as a TV series for Amazon in 2022. My heart is exploding.
Gideon Resnick: Oooh.
Akilah Hughes: Waller-Bridge and Glover will executive produce and star, and the show will be co-created by Francesca Sloane, who is a writer and producer on Atlanta. Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a hot spy classic, so we are excited but giddy. My question for you: what other Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt properties to you want to see Donald and Phoebe bring back?
Gideon Resnick: OK, so I don’t know if we could formally call this a Brad Pitt property because it’s it’s an ensemble, if you will. But Ocean’s Eleven would be really fun with these two. Also, if it were if it were made into a series like this is going to be. I think that is a good, like redemption arc for the last Ocean’s movie, which I thought was like a valiant attempt that didn’t totally work for me even though I like the cast, we could have some . . .
Akilah Hughes: Wow.
Gideon Resnick: Is that a bad take? Is that a hot take?
Akilah Hughes: No, I think it’s just a take. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Did you like Ocean’s Eight.
Akilah Hughes: I didn’t dislike it.
Gideon Resnick: OK, all right.
Akilah Hughes: I thought was a movie, you know, it’s a movie see at the movies.
Gideon Resnick: I didn’t say I disliked it. I just said it could be improved upon with these two as pilot/copilot. Anyway, that’s my pitch.
Akilah Hughes: I think that’s a really good idea. And I do think that, like, the truth is, I’m happy when they, when they reboot these things. Like I liked bringing back Ocean’s. So, like, let’s just keep doing it. Let’s keep rebooting it [laughs] until it’s over.
Gideon Resnick: It’s the kind of IP that existed in the universe before every IP was MCU.
Akilah Hughes: Exactly.
Gideon Resnick: So that’s like another reason to do it. And yeah, like, you know, if they had, like, different heists and stuff like that, they’re pulling off every single episode. That’s an easy series to put together. That’s my pitch. And I hope Phoebe and Donald are listening.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, same.
Gideon Resnick: But what’s your, what’s your – there are Angelina properties, there are Brad properties. What you want to see here?
Akilah Hughes: All right. So I’m going go, I’m going to go Angelina properties. I’m going with Tomb Raider.[laughs] I think that an intellectual two camera Tomb Raider who is breaking the fourth wall about how hard everything is, is exactly where my mind is. I love it. I would love to see Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Tomb Raider. And I’m not really sure if there’s like a guy who is a, you know, a Co-person. I honestly don’t remember, but happy to have Donald Glover play that role. Sounds good to me.
Gideon Resnick: That that is certainly an interesting choice. I would, I definitely would want to see it, that’s for sure. I think that, look, these are trusted creatives and they should be thrown a bunch of old IP that nobody’s doing anything with anyway and let them go to town, have fun.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I think that they just like, you know what would be great and even better than just winning the awards separately, is to win them together as a team. So yeah, I expect them to absolutely clean up at the Emmys when this comes out.
Gideon Resnick: Me too.
Akilah Hughes: But just like that, we have checked our temps. Everybody stay safe. If you are Mr. & Mrs. Smith, be nicer to your husband or wife. You know, times are tough, maybe stop trying to kill each other. And we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Extreme freezing temperatures moved across the country over the weekend and nearly half of the US population was under some form of winter weather advisories yesterday. And in Texas, the demand for electricity overwhelmed power grids and left over four million people without power. Shipments of COVID-19 vaccines were also halted in Texas because of the road conditions, leading some providers like Rice University to scramble to find takers for doses that were about to expire within hours. Heavy snow storms in the Pacific Northwest also left hundreds of thousands of people without power, leading the governor of Oregon to declare a state of emergency. Snow storms are expected to continue traveling south towards Mississippi and Alabama.
Akilah Hughes: A group of activists in the south side of Chicago are entering their second week of a hunger strike to protest the opening of a metal recycling plant in their neighborhood. Reserve Management Group, the company behind the move, recently closed down an older plant in the white, affluent part of town after several environmental violations. Now RMG is close to opening a new plant in Chicago’s Southeast Side, which is largely home to black and brown communities. One of the plant’s features will include a metal shredder, which is known to produce hazardous dust that could cause severe heart and lung damage. Many are calling the move environmental racism. The Southeast Side is already heavily industrial and has the worst air quality in town. And organizers accuse Mayor Lori Lightfoot of encouraging the move to make room for an upscale mega development in the wealthy neighborhood. As of last night, at least 10 people said they won’t eat until Chicago rejects RMGs permit to open the plant, and they’ve asked others to support them by doing one day hunger strikes.
Gideon Resnick: New York Governor, one half of CNN’s top sketch comedy duo, and author of the book How I Absolutely Decimated the Pandemic by Myself or something like that, I guess, Andrew Cuomo is facing criticism amid allegations that his office underreported COVID deaths. The scandal has been developing over the past few weeks, but here are the basics: late last month, New York AG Letitia James released a report saying the New York Department of Health undercounted COVID deaths among nursing home residents by about 50 percent, five zero. That report led New York to quickly correct its death toll, adding 8,500 deaths that had been omitted. Then on Wednesday, top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa admitted on a call that, yes, New York did put a pause on the release of data on COVID in nursing homes last year because of a pending investigation from Trump’s Justice Department. They were concerned the data would be, quote, “used against them.” Yikes. The lack of transparency here has drawn outrage from Republicans and Democrats alike. And members of New York State Senate now think they have the votes to repeal Cuomo expanded executive powers during the pandemic. Cuomo defended his administration’s failure to provide accurate data yesterday, saying it was the result of being under intense pressure. You know, not to mention the immense pressure of writing a book about said pressure.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, woof. Well, the Internet is becoming a safe space for right wing extremism again, with the news that alt-reality social media platform Parlor is back online after Amazon Web Services stopped doing business with them back in January. Amazon cut ties with Parler following the January 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol. At the time, Google, Apple and Amazon said Parler hadn’t done enough to stop threats of violence on their site. As of yesterday, Parlor’s new host is a company called SkySilk, and it has added new content guidelines as well. The website will now remove posts that threaten violence using human and algorithmic moderators and will also filter out attacks based on race, sex, sexual orientation or religion. If you want to visualize how those filters will work, picture a big pipe with mud flowing through it and only 99 percent of the mud gets through. See it’s a little bit better. Well, Parler fired its former CEO, John Matze, earlier this month following what he described as an ideological fight against a conservative donor who controls Parlor’s board. Sad to watch these people let infighting get in the way of hate mongering.
Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. Put the mud pipe to your face, you know, see what happens.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Drown in the mud. And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, stay off Parler and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading and not just Como’s book, King of COVID, like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out. Subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[both] And have a happy Mardi Gras.
Gideon Resnick: If you find the baby in the cake, don’t bite down too hard and break your tooth.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Wear some purple and yellow and green.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.