In This Episode
- Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are rising after last week’s summit in Geneva ended with no resolution between the two countries over Ukraine. We hear an excerpt of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s exclusive interview with Pod Save The World just hours before he went overseas yesterday to meet with Ukraine’s president and Russia’s foreign minister.
- Tomorrow, jury selection is expected to start in the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights: Tou Thao, J. Keung, and Thomas Lane. All three were on the scene when their fellow officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, and failed to stop him from kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
- And in headlines: Rudy Giuliani was subpoenaed by the House panel investigating the January 6th insurrection, Tonga gave its first status update after a volcano eruption and tsunami devastated its islands, and a federal judge approved a plan that would resolve Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy and restructure its $33 billion debt.
- Hear Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s exclusive interview with Pod Save The World – https://crooked.com/podcast-series/pod-save-the-world/
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, January 19th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where we won’t be playing tennis in the Australian Open this year out of respect for Novak Djokovic.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right. To be clear, we could have played, probably would have won. But, you know, it just didn’t feel fair to do that.
Josie Duffy Rice: You know, the real takeaway here is that we’re both professional tennis players.
Gideon Resnick: Correct. On today’s show, Rudy Giuliani was subpoenaed by the House panel investigating January 6th. Plus our first updates from Tonga after last weekend’s volcanic eruption and tsunami knocked out the country’s communication lines.
Josie Duffy Rice: But first, we want to give you an update on the rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine following last week’s summit in Geneva that did not lead to a resolution. So Gideon, can you remind us about why we’re at odds?
Gideon Resnick: I can try. I’m not equipped to do the geopolitical history of the past couple hundred years or so, um, but just to start here, over the last few months, Russia has gathered as many as what we hear are a 100,000 at the Ukraine-Russia border, which has prompted concern that an invasion could be happening soon. The country has also been asking for U.S. nuclear weapons to be withdrawn from Europe and to prevent Ukraine and other former Soviet republics from joining NATO. So those demands have been described as quote unquote “nonstarters” over the course of these conversations, and have been rejected by the U.S. and Western Europe. Though Russian diplomats have said that there are no plans to invade Ukraine, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this yesterday:
[clip of Jen Psaki] Our view is this is an extremely dangerous situation. We’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that is scary, to say the least. So Gideon, what did the White House do yesterday to try and address the situation?
Gideon Resnick: They seem to be trying to pull all of the emergency brakes at once. So Secretary of State Antony Blinken went overseas yesterday to de-escalate things. He’s going to Kiev first to meet with the president of Ukraine before later meetings that are set in the week, including with Russia’s foreign minister. Hours before he flew out, Pod Save The World spoke with Blinken about all of this. Here’s part of that conversation:
[clip of Sec. of State Anthony Blinken] You’ve got one country, Russia, by its actions, saying that it can just change the borders of its neighbor by force, it can decide for its neighbor what its decisions are going to be, with whom it may choose to associate, not the people of that country through their elected government. You have a country saying it’s fine to have a sphere of influence where we basically bend neighbors in our area to our will, not their own choices. And if we let that go with impunity, then I think we open a huge Pandora’s box, where it’s not just Ukraine, it’s other autocratic countries around the world like Russia that say, we’re going to do this too. And that is a recipe for conflict. It’s a recipe for chaos. It’s a recipe for human suffering, and it’s a recipe for undermining democracy.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And The Wall Street Journal also reported that the U.S. is preparing financial sanctions for at least four individuals who they contend are pro-Russian agents in Ukraine. We’ll give you more updates as they happen this week, but to hear more of that interview with Blinken, where he talks about Ukraine, Iran and more, you can listen to the latest episode of Pod Save The World. That is out today on Apple, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.
Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s now turn to a development on another on-going story. So tomorrow, jury selection is expected to start in the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights. They are Tou Thao, J. Keung and Thomas Lane. All three were on the scene when George Floyd was killed by their fellow officer, Derek Chauvin, and failed to stop him from kneeling on Floyd’s neck. They also face a separate state trial where Minnesota prosecutors charge them for aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter, but that state trial was postponed from March to sometime in the next year so this federal trial can take place first.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And as a reminder, Derek Chauvin, of course, was already convicted and sentenced in a state court for murdering George Floyd. And he also pleaded guilty to civil rights charges that were brought against him in federal court. But then Josie, as for these three officers, can we talk again about what they were actually doing as Chauvin had his knee in Floyd’s neck?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah Gideon, it’s a good question. So at the time that Chauvin was kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, Keung and Lane were also applying pressure to Floyd, to his torso and his legs, respectively. And Thao stood nearby and wasn’t touching Floyd at the time. All three men are charged with depriving Floyd of the right to be free from their indifference to his medical needs, which in layman’s terms means they were kind of indifferent to his need for medical help and declined to provide him with any.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Josie Duffy Rice: Thao and Keung are also charged with depriving Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable force. Lane does not face that charge because during the incident, he asked whether or not they should move Floyd to his side, and that was enough to make sure that he didn’t face that second charge. So these charges are less about what they did do and more about what they didn’t. The three men are basically being prosecuted for not intervening or attempting to stop Chauvin.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And so let’s talk about that trial because there have been some logistical controversies and concerns as far as all of this goes. What’s that all about?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s correct. So the main complicating factor seems to be, of course, COVID. The federal judge presiding over the case has said he’s worried about attorneys, defendants, jurors, getting ill, as that could delay or derail the case and has seemed really interested in limiting the number of witnesses and the amount of evidence presented in order to apparently prevent the spread of COVID. He’s basically saying, let’s get this show on the road. That same judge has also restricted public and media access to the trial. During jury selection, only two members of the media and no family members of either the defendant nor Floyd will be allowed in the courtroom. During the trial, four members of the media will be welcome, as well as quote “some family members”, though seemingly very few, and the general public will not be welcome at any point in the trial. Media outlets have pushed back on this decision, have expressed concern that these restrictions could violate the First Amendment.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And as somebody who’s been focusing on criminal justice and police brutality for quite some time for a living, what do you actually think about these charges being brought and the potential of conviction here?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, Gideon. I’m not super excited about these charges or hopeful that they mean much. You know, these three officers watched as Chauvin murdered a man, and there’s no question that they should have to reckon with that and face some sort of consequence. But I can’t help but think that the problem here is not that they were violating what was expected of them, right, but the opposite.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Josie Duffy Rice: These men were behaving the way that they were taught to behave, that police officers are often taught to behave. Two of them had only been on the force for about eight months and were being trained by Chauvin himself. This trial perpetuates the illusion that these other officers were acting out of the ordinary in some way, but in fact, this is what being a police officer entails. It requires officers to overlook brutality, from temporary harm to permanent loss of life, and it requires these officers to pledge an affinity to the thin blue line. So I don’t think convicting these officers will do much to prevent the next incident where police kill a man. Instead, I think it encourages this lie that individual accountability is enough, when systemic accountability has yet to happen.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Josie Duffy Rice: So we’ll be following this case as it proceeds, and bring you updates, but that’s the lead us for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are discussing the website that millions of Americans have already set as their home page: it is covidtests.gov. So the site is the digital home of Biden’s free at-home coronavirus testing program, and it went live yesterday one day ahead of schedule and still not one millisecond too soon. Americans can log on to the site now to order four tests through the U.S. Postal Service. Millions of orders have been placed already, though the site did struggle to process some of these requests that were from people living in apartment buildings, reflecting a pro-homeowner bias that we, as millennials, have been dealing with our entire lives. So Josie my question for you: have you gotten the chance to visit covidtests.gov yet, and how was your experience?
Josie Duffy Rice: Gideon, I did visit covidtests.gov. I was able to put in my information very easily, press submit, went off without a hitch.
Gideon Resnick: Nice.
Josie Duffy Rice: Very exciting. I only have a few complaints.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s hear ’em.
Josie Duffy Rice: Including that were about two years into this pandemic, and I feel like the general question of testing should have been solved by now. And also, on one hand, thanks government: four tests free—love it. On the other hand, now everybody in my house can test exactly once and then go back to scouring the local CVS. So I’m not sure what this is really going to do.
Gideon Resnick: It puts a lot of pressure on what the one event is going to be that everyone in your household total tests for.
Josie Duffy Rice: Totally. Totally.
Gideon Resnick: Like, is somebody’s Disney wish going to win out. Is it more like pedestrian, sort of, we got to go to a reunion type of thing going to win out.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right. Does a plane need to be involved?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Josie Duffy Rice: How many people need to be showing symptoms?
Gideon Resnick: Right, right. Which I think is definitely the kinds of questions that we in our daily lives should be tasked with deciding on our own in making use of these limited resources that have been given to us, instead of an endless supply.
Josie Duffy Rice: Well, if there’s any group of people I trust to use good judgment, it is the American people in a pandemic. They’ve really just demonstrated a level of calm and sanity that is unparalleled really.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. No, no question. But just like that, we have checked our temps. We hope that yours are not high and if they are, that you are able to diagnose your COVID, but we will be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Josie Duffy Rice: A federal judge approved a plan yesterday that would resolve Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy and restructure its $33 billion debt. The decision comes nearly five years after Puerto Rico became the first U.S. state or territory to essentially declare bankruptcy, in part because of the power hedge funds of investment banks have had over the territory’s assets. Since then, the Puerto Rican government has struggled to recover economically after multiple natural disasters. The new deal will reduce the territory’s debt by 80% and save the government from $50 billion in debt payments. The deal is considered to be the largest public sector debt restructuring deal in U.S. history. In a statement yesterday, Governor Pedro Pierluisi said, quote “The agreement, while not perfect, is very good for Puerto Rico and protects our pensioners, university and municipalities that serve our people.” The federal government continues to exercise significant control over Puerto Rico’s economy, and citizens who live there like a number of constitutional protections available in other states.
Gideon Resnick: Mm-Hmm. Tonga gave its first status update after an underwater volcano eruption and a subsequent tsunami devastated its islands on Saturday. NASA researchers have said the eruption was 500 times more powerful than that of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. Images of Tonga show its islands covered in a thick layer of ash. Dozens of houses were damaged on the main island of Tongatapu, and the United Nations confirmed four deaths in the wake of the disaster. The eruption also damaged the country’s underwater communications cable that connects them to the rest of the world. Countries like New Zealand and Australia were quick to send rescue teams to their Tongan neighbors, but the government of Tonga worries that foreigners will bring COVID with them in their efforts to provide relief. Tonga has kept the virus out of its islands after shutting its borders in 2020, and opening them again to anyone could put the country at risk of an outbreak.
Josie Duffy Rice: Microsoft announced yesterday that it plans to buy the gaming company Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, the largest acquisition ever in the gaming world. Activision is the company behind popular games like Call of Duty and Candy Crush—who knew the same company made those games?
Gideon Resnick: Very similar
Josie Duffy Rice: Shocking to me. So this big buy means that Microsoft, which makes the Xbox, will be an even bigger player in the video game industry. But there are several fiery hoops to jump through first. Due to the high price tag, federal regulators may put up a fight if they think the deal might create a monopoly. And then there’s also the harassment issues that have plagued Activision in the last six months. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is currently suing the company for its failure to pay female workers equally, as well as its toxic, quote “frat boy workplace culture.”—where have we heard that before? Everywhere. And last November, The Wall Street Journal first reported that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick knew about sexual misconduct claims, including rapes, within the company for years, but failed to notify the company’s board. Since then, nearly 40 workers have left the company, while others have staged protests and called for executives to resign.
Gideon Resnick: Yikes. The House January 6th committee has clearly moved into the “just wanna laugh” phase of its investigation since it subpoenaed former New York City mayor turned cartoon Trump sidekick Rudy Giuliani yesterday—Our old friend is back. The Democratic-led panel also subpoenaed Trump’s former campaign adviser, Boris Epshteyn, along with Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell, who both worked closely with Giuliani to push the Big Lie. And then, in a first for the committee, it subpoenaed members of Trump’s family, demanding and obtaining the phone records of Eric Trump plus Don Jr’s fiancée, Kimberly Guilfoyle. That’s according to CNN. Now, Don Jr. himself was apparently not subpoenaed, which we can only assume the committee did on purpose to stoke an inner-son rivalry and inflict mental torture—ala Logan Roy. Also in news about someone who is not Trump’s son but does illustrate the full destructive power of what a Trump son could be, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been making headlines lately, in part for refusing to say that he would decline to challenge Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024—if you have hives after hearing that you not alone. Trump and DeSantis were once close allies, but a feud is clearly brewing. Last week, Trump seemed to take a swipe at DeSantis for refusing to say whether he has been boosted and DeSantis fired back by criticizing Trump for how he handled the pandemic and said he regretted not being more vocal about his complaints—he’s doing the “I need to speak to the manager” thing, but months late.
Josie Duffy Rice: And just to be clear, when DeSantis is upset about how Trump handled the pandemic, it’s not because Trump didn’t do enough.
Gideon Resnick: Right, right. He was like, There is a modicum of public health that exists in the world.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Gideon Resnick: Amazing to be angry at your Republican papa for saying he likes being vaccinated because he’s really old and lives in Florida. All, all great stuff. And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, order and ration your four free COVID tests, and tell your friends to listen.
Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just Eric Trump’s texts like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice,
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And join us in not playing in the Australian Open.
Gideon Resnick: We play in our own tournament by our own rules, winning our own way.
Josie Duffy Rice: We don’t even use rackets and our tennis.
Gideon Resnick: We don’t need to. We’re that good.
Josie Duffy Rice: Just sticks.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly.
Josie Duffy Rice: Just regular old sticks.
Gideon Resnick: Get me a log and I’ll serve an ace. Just you watch.
Gideon Resnick: 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.