Make Me Smart June 14, 2022 transcript
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Kimberly Adams: Hello, I am Kimberly Adams, welcome to Make Me Smart, where none of us is as smart as all of us.
Kai Ryssdal: I’m Kai Ryssdal. It’s Tuesday, one topic in the news, especially in the news today, are the hearings of the January 6 committee on Capitol Hill. We’ve been talking about it for a while. But we’re gonna talk about a little more today because this is, from my money, THE story, it is THE story for the next, I don’t even know how long. Anyway, that’s what we’re gonna do today.
Kimberly Adams: Yeah, and we’re gonna talk about this with someone who has been focusing on the aftermath of January 6. Not just these hearings, but he’s been following all the court cases as they’ve been working their way through the system, the developments on the Hill and everywhere else. My buddy Kyle Cheney, who’s a senior legal affairs reporter at Politico, we go way back to the State House News Service in Boston. Kyle, welcome to the show.
Kyle Cheney: Great to be here. Thank you both for having me.
Kimberly Adams: So as somebody who has been following the sort of nuances and every single legal filing, every single court case, like all the way through this process, I imagine there wasn’t, there hasn’t been much new for you, two hearings in, but what has struck you so far about these hearings?
Kyle Cheney: You know, actually, you’d be surprised that, you’re right that in the broad arc of the story of what we know has not changed all that much. I mean, Donald Trump was impeached in February 2021. And the story that led to his impeachment has been largely unchanged, but they filled in so many of the details about what was happening inside the West Wing, what was happening behind the scenes, the Justice Department, that it tells a much more vivid and much more unnerving story than even what we learned during impeachment. So what the committee did in the first two hearings that I thought was fairly effective was, they put the, you know, they took video depositions with a lot of these witnesses, these are people from Donald Trump’s inner circle, involved in all of the key moments of his attempts to subvert the election. And you saw them in their own words, saying what happened, and it was not a flattering story for Donald Trump. And so it felt more credible, it felt more compelling to hear it from the mouths of the witnesses themselves.
Kai Ryssdal: The committee is trying, obviously, to get all of this on the record, right? Doing the democratically – small d – responsible thing and getting all of this on the record. Do you think, well, rather than ask do you think they’re going to change anybody’s mind, let me ask you this. Do you think they’re trying to change people’s minds?
Kyle Cheney: You know, this is a great question, because I’ve been asking them, you know, what is the goal of the thing? What do you want at the end of all this to know whether you’ve succeeded or not? And you kind of get a few different answers. One is that yes, can we, can we marshal public opinion to agree that what happened was wrong at a basic level and a threat to democracy and that we should all try to prevent it from ever happening again? That’s one answer. One is just to preserve this for history, to make sure you know, you can’t have an insurrection on the Capitol and not investigate it to the fullest extent possible. It’s just not imaginable. And then it’s to show, you know, that people like Donald Trump and in his orbit don’t belong anywhere near the levers of power again, and that they want people to sort of come to general agreement on that. You know, I don’t know if they think they’re going to get through to you know, the diehard Trump loyalists faithful that will walk through fire for him, but I think maybe they believe there’s some group that sort of lost interest or hadn’t followed every nuance of this for the last year and a half that can be awakened to all the details that are about to unload on the public.
Kimberly Adams: What about in terms of actual concrete outcomes from either a legal or criminal perspective? Are they leading up to something that is going to change anything?
Kyle Cheney: Well, you know, look, it’s twofold actually. Yes, there’s the criminal process, which is playing out. Justice Department is still focused primarily on people who broke into the Capitol on January 6, and attack police. But they started to look a little more closely at Donald Trump’s circle, the people in the outer rungs of the Trump orbit, and suggesting that maybe they move in a little closer, every day every week. But then there’s also the policy outcome which the committee is ostensibly focused on, which is how do we change the laws that were exploited by people in Donald Trump’s orbit to ensure that what happened can never happen again. How do we shore up Capitol security? Intelligence gathering and sharing, monitor things like domestic extremism, which had such a big part in the violence at the Capitol. And so that. I think we may see legislative recommendations sometime this fall.
Kai Ryssdal: So you follow this on a granular level right? And thank God for that because you’re keeping us informed, of which I am one of your readers right? But look, there are millions of people in this country. Forget, forget the slice of the Republican base that is Donald Trump’s now and forever, but there is a slice of the population in this country that while aware of these hearings is saying, “Are you kidding me? Inflation is 8.6%! I gotta pay five and a half dollars for a gallon of gas. My food is costing me $400 a week. How am I supposed pay attention to this?” Make that case.
Kyle Cheney: You know, I think the committee acknowledges that. I think they have never, you know, said that this is somehow a replacement for policy solutions in those areas that have more direct impact in people’s lives. I think what they wanted to show here, or what they would argue and what I’ve heard them argue is, if you don’t have a functioning democracy, if the system itself fails, and you have an autocracy, or you have some something that isn’t the current representative democracy that we have, all these other issues go out the window, you can’t have, you need that as a baseline to even confront the economic and policy issues that matter in people’s lives. And so, you know, they want people to remember that this is real for them too. I think that’s part of the point here, is people don’t view this as connected to their lives, they don’t view this as something that’s directly related to them, because it happened 17 months ago, and they don’t necessarily see it as impacting the future. But the committee wants them to understand that not only did this happen, and it was bad, it’s ongoing, it’s still a threat to the country, still a threat to democracy here. And that if you do care about the economy, you need to make sure that we have a functioning government to confront those problems in the future too.
Kimberly Adams: Since you have been following this so closely, and like Kai said at this granular level, how close were we to having a coup on January 6?
Kyle Cheney: Extraordinarily close. And I think that’s the, one of the takeaways the committee is trying to convey is that, this was a lot closer than even people realize over the course of this. There were a couple of key moments, a couple of key decisions by officials in power to push back, and that may have made the difference between this succeeding or not. This was, you know, if any state legislatures had decided to try to put an alternative approach… in and send it to Congress, that could have been the thing that pushed it across the finish line. If Mike Pence had not resisted the pressure campaign from Donald Trump, and tried to do what Donald Trump wanted? If people in the Justice Department didn’t threaten to resign on masse? And if Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger agreed to “find” the votes that Trump said he needed and defined? At any of those points, we could be talking about a different outcome, and the committee wants to make that as clear to the people as possible.
Kai Ryssdal: So now what? We’ve got what, four hearings left? They are laying out this seven-step narrative that Congresswoman Cheney laid out in that first prime-time hearing. Where do we go from here?
Kyle Cheney: So I expect we’re going to hear more. I mean so far, the first couple of hearings we’ve heard about the the overview, the broad contours of the effort, Donald Trump’s effort, and how that led to the violent attack on the Capitol. Then we’ve heard how he seeded what they call the big lie, the false claims and lies about the election results and how that became the foundation for everything else that came next: the attempt to overturn the election. I think we’re going to start to hear more about what all the pieces I just mentioned to you. What was going on inside the Justice Department where Trump threatened to replace the entire leadership so that they would use the powers of government to overturn the election? What was happening in the pressure campaign against Mike Pence? You want to get into the real details of how Trump got a team of lawyers led by John Eastman, who essentially tried to legitimize this effort to overturn the election on January 6, when Congress was counting electoral votes. I think we’re gonna see a much deeper dive into each of those facets. It’s going to be some stuff on the money trail and how the Republican fundraising ended up financing Trump’s January 6 rally, and how that was just very murky and potentially crossed into criminal territory. So I think there’s just several lanes here that the committee is going to hit one at a time to try to provide more details than we’ve seen so far.
Kai Ryssdal: Kyle Cheney is a senior legal affairs reporter at Politico. If you don’t follow him on Twitter, or read his stuff on Politico, you’re missing out on the details, because he’s doing unbelievable work. Kyle, thanks so much. I really appreciate your time.
Kyle Cheney: Of course. Great to be here.
Kimberly Adams: Bye Kyle.
Kyle Cheney: Thank you.
Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, it’s good stuff. Good stuff. Well, good in a terrible way, but good stuff.
Kimberly Adams: Good that we’re finding out. And I think, you know, when I’m talking to my friends and family back home, and trying to convince them to watch these hearings, it’s hard to explain to people what it felt like to be in DC on that day. I had my phone and everything off because I was on vacation and trying to unplug, and all of a sudden, there are like armored vehicles rushing down the streets everywhere. There are, you know, the city shuts down. There are guys waving giant Confederate flags and Trump flags outside the grocery store in my neighborhood and claiming that they’re getting ready to take over. It was so close. And I was on BBC a couple months ago with somebody in Texas who was saying that it wasn’t that big of a deal, and it was just a DC story and it didn’t really matter. And I was just like, oh my gosh. The counter narrative has been so powerful in diminishing how serious this was, and even if the only takeaway of these hearings is to get people aware of how close we were, I think that’s a potential win.
Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, that’s right. I think that’s absolutely right.
Kimberly Adams: Yeah, all right. Well, let us know what you think. Our number is 508-827-6278, also known as 508-U-B-SMART. If you have questions, if you have thoughts. Maybe if you want to tell us how you felt on that day when you saw this going down from wherever you were. You can send us a voice memo at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we’ll be right back.
Kai Ryssdal: Alright, time for the news. Ms. Adams, you go first.
Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I mean, I guess if we’re talking about extremism and nationalism, we can’t do it without talking about this wild story out of Idaho – wild and horrifying – where 31 people were arrested as they were getting ready to attack a pride celebration. And these guys were in uniform, they had on masks, they were armed, and they had an organized plan to basically attack en masse this pride celebration. This is the Patriot Front. It’s a white nationalist group. It’s a group that’s been involved in other crimes. The guy who drove a car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Kai Ryssdal: Was he this guy?
Kimberly Adams: Well yeah, he was affiliated with the original Patriot Front. And a lot of these people have ties to what happened on January 6. And the rising tide of white nationalism and domestic extremism in the United States is so dangerous. And there’s a story in the AP that is talking about where the hate speech targeting LGBTQ people across the country and all of these laws and pending legislation targeting LGBTQ folks with such hostile language and perpetuating these stigmas and discrimination, is actually galvanizing some of these far-right influencers and extremist groups. And that’s what leads to it. All the people who watch these extremist groups and how they talk to each other online, they’re using this language as leverage for organizing these kinds of things. And so, rhetoric is not without consequences. And so, these lawmakers who are throwing out this really incendiary and hurtful and harmful language about LGBTQ folks in the media around this legislation. In the hearings, we’re seeing how Donald Trump’s language about a stolen election, even though it was false, directly galvanized people to attack the Capitol. And now we are seeing where this incendiary language against LGBTQ folks is directly galvanizing people to attack them. And this is what is happening. And it’s extraordinarily dangerous.
Kai Ryssdal: The thing that gets me about this story, in addition to everything you said, was that the sheriff or the local authorities up there said, it was only because a concerned citizen saw them loading these 31 guys into the back of a U-Haul that said, something’s not right here. “This looks like an army” I think is what the person said, and called the cops. That’s the only reason this didn’t get unbelievably ugly.
Kimberly Adams: Yeah, yeah. That was one of my two stories. The other one is just an observation of, let’s just say a little bit of a policy disconnect. So the CDC recently lifted the testing requirements to enter the country internationally because they made the assessment, the agency made the assessment, that it’s no longer necessary in the pandemic to test international travelers coming into the United States. However, I should note that, and I’m just going to read here from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s description of this:
“Title 42 of the Public Health Services Act is a public health authority that authorizes the Director of the Centers for Disease Control to suspend entry of individuals into the U.S. to protect public health. This authority was implemented by the Trump administration in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for the quick expulsion of migrants, including asylum seekers, seeking entry into the U.S. at the land borders.”
So apparently, the pandemic has receded enough, even though it hasn’t, to allow people that who have not been tested to enter the United States if you come on a plane. But if you come by land seeking asylum or are migrant, our same agency is still under the stance that that they are not allowed. Now granted, the Biden administration has attempted to roll this back and it has been blocked by court. But that is just how things stand. That’s all I’ve got.
Kai Ryssdal: Fair enough. Mine is nowhere near any of those two policy issues. It’s just the observation that crypto winter is upon us. Coinbase, the granddaddy of the crypto exchanges, announced today it’s laying off 18% of its people. The CEO Brian Armstrong, in making an announcement said, we over-hired in essence. Which prompted me to look for how many people Coinbase employs – 4900 people, almost 5000 People at Coinbase, which blew me away. That’s a lot of people to help people move crypto around. It’s just an indicator of number one, the volatility of crypto, how it has real world impact. And oh, by the way, CEOs are starting to say to themselves, in addition to crypto CEOs, are saying, Hmm, this economy could get shaky in a hurry. And we’re gonna lay some people off. So there you go.
Kimberly Adams: Yeah, and I was reading that they shut off everybody’s email and access right before… Such an ugly way to do people.
Kai Ryssdal: Really bad. Yeah. So apparently what they did was they emailed people to their personal email addresses, because they had already cut off their corporate email addresses, letting them know that they were fired.
Kimberly Adams: That is just such a dirty way to do people. Like if somebody hasn’t actively threatened that they’re gonna do something awful to you. That’s just not a nice way to do it.
Kai Ryssdal: Let’s always remember, people, that HR works for the company. HR does not work for you. HR works for the company. Anyway, let’s do the mailbag stuff. We talked housing last week with the one & the only Amy Scott. And here is Voice Memo number one.
Alejandra: Hi, Kai and Kimberly. This is Alejandra from Houston. Although I feel a lot of pressure from … around me about the importance of buying a house and building equity, there are several reasons why I struggle with the idea. One, I want to live in the city where houses around me are about $1.5 million for 1300 square feet. I don’t want to be responsible for a place that could flood or have pipes burst during an epic winter freeze, because of our ongoing climate crisis. And I don’t want to deal with maintenance. So I paid a fortune to live in a popular part of the city. I can’t bring myself to look at houses in the suburbs where everyone is married with kids, but houses are more affordable. I guess my dog will have to wait a little bit longer for a yard. Thanks for making me smart!
Kimberly Adams: And that is why I live in a condo with maintenance included.
Kai Ryssdal: All of that is true. Maintenance is terrible. All of that is true. I can’t argue with the thing Alejandra said, at all.
Kimberly Adams: Yeah, but also like the prices of housing in urban areas where it’s a fun place to live are ridiculous. The place where I bought my home I could not afford to buy here now. I could afford to buy when I did, but I absolutely could not afford to buy here now. And that is becoming more and more of a reality for folks, that housing isn’t just expensive, it’s unattainable. And the higher these rents are going, the more unattainable it is, because you can’t save anything. And if I hear one more person talking about stop your streaming services and don’t get your lattes and stop taking Ubers and walk, it’s like, is that going to net me $1.5 million in savings? I’m sorry. No, it’s not going to do it. And so yeah, I feel your pain. And I have no idea how to fix it. I don’t know. All right. We also get an email from Laurie in response to Taco Bell ditching dining rooms in exchange for drive-thru lanes. Laurie says, I’m sad to hear about Taco Bell switch to no dining rooms. In a rural county where I lived, before moving to Renton, Washington, Taco Bell and McDonald’s were the gathering places for the senior citizens while they waited for the senior center (which I ran for 30 years) to open since we didn’t serve breakfast. They were inexpensive, welcoming places for single seniors to gather and chat. That is a really good point.
Kai Ryssdal: It’s a great point. And it’s kind of a sad point too, you know?
Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Because in so many places, unlike where Alejandra lives, where there’s not a lot of restaurants and places to hang out and community spaces. The McDonald’s with the kids’ place – what did they call those areas? Kids’ space?
Kai Ryssdal: I don’t even know, whatever, we all know what we’re talking about.
Kimberly Adams: You know, having those spaces is so important. I definitely remember as a kid being excited about going to play on the little thing in McDonald’s. I’m more excited about that than the food.
Kai Ryssdal: That’s right. Sorry to interrupt. Here’s the parent of a toddler in the Slack. Bridget Bodnar. Playplace is what they’re called.
Kimberly Adams: Thank you, Bridget.
Kai Ryssdal: All right. Before we go, as we always do, this week’s answer to the make me smart question. This is the Father’s Day edition, which oh by the way is this weekend. What is something you thought you knew but later found out you were wrong about?
Kimberly Adams: Oh, here’s a nice surprise. Today’s answer comes from former marketplace tech editor and recently new dad, Michael Lipkin.
Michael Lipkin: Something I thought I knew but later found out that I was wrong about was how much self worth I could get outside of work. A lot of people probably already know that about themselves, but I didn’t. I was one of those people who, for a long time, what I did and where I worked were the things that define me. I had hobbies I was passionate about and family I loved. But just what I did for work gave me a lot of purpose. And then my wife gave birth, and we have an amazing son. And I took six months to be with him. And it was hard. And I realized that if I became independently wealthy, or really, if childcare gets even $1 more expensive, I realized that I would be so happy as a stay-at-home parent. Work just doesn’t matter as much in a profound way. Thanks for all you do, keeping us smart.
Kai Ryssdal: Oh, Michael, what a lovely note, what a lovely little note.
Kimberly Adams: That’s so sweet! And by the way, I am blessed to get a steady stream of baby photos of that gorgeous child and they bring me great joy.
Kai Ryssdal: That was a nice nice note, Michael. Thank you so much. So keep sending…
Kimberly Adams: Happy early Father’s Day to you too, Kai.
Kai Ryssdal: Well thank you, thank you. Although my kids now are, you know, no longer the little bundles of joy, let me just say that. Anyway, love my kids though. Keep sending us your answers to that make me smart question via voice memo to our email at email@example.com. Or you can leave us a message 508-827-6278, 508-U-B-SMART is what that works out to.
Kimberly Adams: Make Me Smart is directed and produced by Marissa Cabrera. Our intern is Olivia Zhao, and Ellen Rolfes writes our newsletter.
Kai Ryssdal: Today’s program is engineered by Juan Carlos Torrado. Mingxin Qiguan is going to mix it down later. Ben Tolliday and Daniel Ramirez composed our theme music. The Senior producer of this podcast is Bridget Bodnar. Donna Tam is the director of On Demand. I gotta write this stuff down… Marketplace’s Vice President and General Manager is Neil Scarborough.
Kimberly Adams: This is like nostalgia episode today. We got Kyle Cheney, Michael Lipkin. Good times.